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KoA: These are Their Stories


The Black Knight

Knight-Commander’s Logs: Jalen Ramz - 39 ABY, June 24, 2015

“Fresh meat here!” A merchant cried out. “The finest cuts! Fresh, and free range!” His words rang out across Vard Mislu, drowned by the sea of other voices.

Alive. That was the only term the Falleen had for it, as his black eyes swept out across the bustling streets of the Tythonian town. All around, throughout the settlement and up the hills it had once begun to cover, one could see the scars of New Tython’s liberation on this place. Ruins, the stone-and-steel husks and shattered remnants of old buildings dotted the hills for miles, shattered cobblestone streets patched in places with soil or boarded over with planks of wood. According to reports from New Tython’s liberation, Jalen knew the town had suffered worse than any other Tythonian colony on the planet, with nearly eighty percent of its buildings destroyed.

And yet, it was widely, deeply, alive.

By no means had the town, as it was, been rebuilt; the damage had been too extensive, the planet too remote for an influx of workers from the Core Worlds. Rather, the human survivors who had rebelled against their false King, once staunchly against the Harakoans of the planet, had rallied together with them and the Jedi to set their world free. Many of the natives had settled in, while many others from neighbouring tribes now visited to trade goods and stories with the locals in exchange for bits of medicine and technology. The result was a shantytown, once no more than a few tents, now a vast and colorful array of wooden houses built around, between, and even within the ruined permacrete that had once made up the colony.

Ramz’ eyes were calculating as he sized the place up, making note of everything he saw. Shopkeepers sold services, from pelts and meats to imported spices, from salvaged and new technology to trinkets of Harakoan and off-world culture; if the rumors abound were right, some enterprising souls were even considering opening a spaceport for trade. That was the Mislu everyone could see, the Mislu the Tythonian government wanted them to see; a bustling home for culture, trade, and expansion.

The Falleen’s eyes indeed saw all that, and more. They saw what everyone else missed.

Standing up from his chair in the shadows, the Falleen dropped a pair of cred-chips onto the wooden table he’d been seated at, leaving his half-empty cup of caf to the merchant who’d brewed it for him. Striding through the streets, he garnered considerable notice, the sharp angles of his green face drawing attention from human and Harakoan alike. His hair, a black top-knot of braids, exposed his bald scalp to the sun; while common among the Harakoans, on the clawed Falleen it looked imposing, sinister. As it was meant to. Walking past the docks, the source of Vard Mislu’s lifeblood, he cast a quick glance at the boats and rafts tying off at the pier, the piercing cries of gulls echoing over the din of the people.

As he peered about, he caught a quick glance of the dockmaster pocketing fine jewelry, while a boat captain nodded to a pair of rough-looking goons. Quietly, they moved a couple of heavy crates away from the main shipment, while the dockmaster notably failed to count them on his inventory datapad.

For this was the true Mislu, the one only experienced eyes saw. From every corner, every stall, sharp eyes peered through the crowd; as men in garb both Tythonian and local, women in plain clothes and colorful, beaded skirts moved along, men with hidden knives and wicked grins sized up their purses. Deals were made; Tythonian Security officers, their white, lightly-plated uniforms sterling and clean against the sun, kept watch while quietly taking hand-offs from the right people. Vard Mislu was a hub for trade, for expansion and growth, where the entrepreneur could make a fortune.

Naturally, that also made it a hive of scum and villainy.

As Jalen strode through the streets, he studied his surroundings, and the crowd around him; already, he could feel eyes upon his back, upon the fine cut of his travelling cloak and the clean shine of his boots. He was conscious of the vibroblade up his sleeve, and the hold-out pistol in his boot as he made his way through the crowd, gracefully side-stepping a clumsy Ithorian with a bowl full of spiny fish. The lightsaber clipped to his belt was concealed, for now, but he was always aware of it. There were too many eyes, too many stares.

For a Jedi, this would have been a risky situation. But Jalen Ramz was no Jedi; to a former Tarenti, watching ones back was the way of the world.

“Mister! Mister!” A tiny voice squealed, as a young girl in a simple blue dress ran up to Jalen. The sharp movement surprised him, as he blinked at the little one before him. “What are you, mister?”

“Erm…” Jalen said, perplexed at the question. His clawed fingers gently stroked his chin, as he tried to answer the question; he’d had precious little time dealing with children amongst the Sith of the Death Clan. “A Falleen. I’m a Falleen.”

“Suri!” An older female voice, yet still quite young, called out. Perhaps fifteen, the human girl ran up to the child - her sister, Ramz surmised; he could never be sure with humans, especially when they all had such similar hair colors and features - and grabbed her hand. “I apologize, sir. She’s curious, that’s all.” The girl smiled at him.

“Yes, of course. That’s fine.” Ramz nodded awkwardly, unsure of how to talk to youths, especially Tythonian ones. “Good day to you.” He continued on his path.

“But Katra!” The protesting voice of the child echoed behind him, and was lost as he blended back into the crowd.

His eyes swept the scenery; shanties and buildings stood, some square and Tythonian, with Aurebesh signs and glowrods, while others - Harakoan - were shaped at odd angles and decorated by paint and feather. He caught sight of working men, hauling boxes; of women trading, talking, and working alongside them. His eyes swept over a vagrant in the street, his flea-bitten beard hanging over a threadbare cloak as he held out a pan for coins. Focusing, clearing his mind, he reached out with the Force to feel for danger.

That was when he caught sight of a pair of street toughs eyeing him down, on approach and hiding cudgels up their sleeves.

The inward musing and study of the Falleen went silent, as he smoothly turned down the alley on his right, striding quickly. His eyes took in the denizens within, rodents and reptiles picking at the trash behind dwellings as beggars and ruffians looked outward from their nooks and holes. A pair of shadows appeared in the distance behind him, no doubt the thieves or ruffians he’d seen; his senses quickly picked up another few, blending out from the shadows to try and flank him. Picking up his pace, the Falleen took a right turn between buildings, before a sharp left to try and lose his pursuers. The sound of running boots picked up behind him, closing in.

With a sharp flick of his wrist, the Falleen seized upon the tension in the air, the latent fear of the onlookers, commanding the Force to knock aside a trash can; it spilled, eliciting curses from his pursuers. A burly shape emerged before him, growling and reaching for the Falleen. Without a second’s hesitation, he knocked aside a haymaker blow before snapping upward, driving a knee into the jaw of a scotch-scented human with poor teeth.

Sprinting now, Jalen picked up the pace, as his attackers moved to flank and divert him. Escape was ideal, but a fight was looking more and more likely; Ramz rounded another corner, only to come to a dead end, each entrance now filled with one or more dark shapes. He cursed; Spent too much time on the scenery, should have seen them coming. You’re getting sloppy. Moving slowly, he turned in a cautious circle, watching as several drew out clubs and long knives.

“Fancy cloak you’ve got there,” Their ringleader, a pungent-looking man with a scar on his face, growled. “Fancy boots, too. Worth a fine price, I bet.”

“You can still walk away,” The Dark Sider said coldly, sizing them all up, knowing the words were futile. Slowly, his hand edged to his side, to his lightsaber. Enough was enough. “I’d hate to have to hurt you.”

“You hear that, boys?” The gang leader barked to his men; the lot of them were surly, scarred, and rough-looking. They all stood strong, confident in their movements; Jalen idly wondered if they’d been rebel soldiers against Thuron’s Monarchy, before falling to a life of petty theft. “This alien trash thinks he can take us. Let’s show 'im who’s boss!” With a snarl, he leapt toward Jalen, club lifted.

A shadow to his side shifted, a form springing from the darkness, faster than a common thug; a hand, wrinkled by age and yet sturdy, caught the man’s club arm in mid-swing. A second hand, this one a fist, smashed into the man’s solarplexus and sent him sprawling. Jalen’s eyes flashed as they looked upon a figure - the vagrant from the streets, now standing in a firm combat stance.

The old man looked to Ramz, nodding from beneath his hood. “Best not to kill them,” He said quietly. “Draws too much attention.” Uncertain, the Falleen nodded, dropping into his own combative stance. Slowly, the two stood back to back, hands raised. The tension grew, as the circle of thugs slowly advanced; Ramz could have cut it with a knife.

“Get 'em!” Another of the thugs roared, the pack advancing with a cry.

As one, the two warriors wove and struck; a firm Broken Gate stance lent Ramz power as he parried a cudgel, driving a strong knee up into a man’s belly. The old man behind him similarly blocked a blow, kicking out a thug’s knee before smashing an elbow into his temple. Three came at Ramz at once, only to find the vagrant’s fists and boots intercepting them as the Falleen blocked and sidestepped; another pulled a vibroknife, coming at the old man’s kidney for a sneak attack. Ramz’ own vibroblade slid into his palm, as he wrenched the man’s hand upward and jammed the humming blade through his wrist. He fell back with a cry, and Ramz booted out his teeth.

Frantically, one of the downed thugs crawled backward, fumbling as he drew a pistol from his beltline; with a cry, he let off a shot, the red bolt careening toward the pair with a shriek. Ramz didn’t look, didn’t think; the Force was with him, and his hand went smoothly to his belt, to the hilt clasped therein.

The Falleen’s purple blade flared to life, swatting aside the red bolt into the sky as its amethyst glow parted the gloom of the alleyway; as the blade shrieked into existence, the clutch of thieves scattered, those who could still run leaving those unconscious to whatever fate awaited them.

“They’ll have heard that,” The vagrant said to Jalen, his voice hoarse. As he stood upright, the breadth of his shoulders and his height became apparent, revealing a burly figure. He brushed out his beard, much of the dirt and apparent fleas seeming to sweep out with little ease. A disguise? “Best be ready, the Security Corps’ll be here soon.”

“Who are you?” The Falleen asked, only to have comprehension dawn as Liam let his hood and cloak fall aside. The silver emitter of a saberstaff peeked out over his shoulder, as keen eyes peered out from beneath bushy eyebrows. It was a face Ramz had seen before, on the battlefield. “The old man from Korriban.” He deactivated his lightsaber, taking a cautious few steps back. “When last I saw you, we were enemies.”

“Yes,” Liam replied, smiling cheerfully at the Falleen. He was an enigma; breath quick, heart rate elevated, fresh from the fight. And calm as a sleeping Bantha. “Though many of the Sith could say that, even on the side we fought for. I made few adoring fans in the Dark Crusade.”

“I’m no Sith,” Ramz replied, as the hard clack of military boots was heard nearby. “Not anymore.” He turned, alongside Liam, to face the approaching officers.

A trio of them entered the alleyway, blaster rifles up, in a tight formation; their form was sloppy, but sufficient. “Area secure,” Their captain said after sizing them up. He turned his rifle toward them. “Jedi. What’s the meaning of this?”

“Simple disagreement,” Liam said, smiling at the group as he waved his hand along the men on the ground. “These nice men were giving me directions, that’s all. We’ll be on our way.” Calmly, nodding at Jalen, he scooped up his cloak and started toward the men; the officers were cautious as he passed, but made no move to obstruct him. Their eyes seemed fixated on the silvery staff across his shoulders.

Jalen arched an eyebrow; then, slowly, he followed the Consular. Clipping his hilt to his belt, he gave each of the soldiers before him an appraising stare as he jogged to catch up to Torun, making sure they could see his own weapon. He could have smelled their fear a mile off.

“We should have killed those thugs.” The Falleen said to the Cleric, as he caught up to his stride. “I know how underworlds like this one work; if we’d sent a clearer message-…,”

“Then they would have learned to answer Jedi Knights with blaster rifles.” Liam replied. “Instead, they learned not to trifle with you over the value of your boots.”

The Falleen’s angular face soured, but slowly he nodded; he could see the logic behind the old man’s reasoning. Even if he disagreed on his methods. “Why did you help me? And for that matter,” He said, “Why are you even here? Are you following me?”

“Surely, you can’t blame me for wanting a look into our newest Tarenti. One can never be too careful with Dark Siders,” Liam replied. There was no venom to his words, nor any bite; he was simply stating a fact. One that rang true, the Falleen had to admit. “You handled yourself well back there; perhaps well enough to do a little more than prowl the streets.”

The alien stopped, looking over the old man; Liam turned to face him, his eyes expectant. “What do you mean, more?”

“The will of the Force calls to us all, Jalen Ramz,” Torun said to him; the Falleen made a mental note to watch this Jedi, who appeared without notice and seemed to know far too much. “Even to those who walk down its darker paths. This world, all the worlds, need the help of our Order; there will come a time when our best must stand forth, to protect those in need.” He stood a bit taller, his eyes becoming stern, almost fierce, in their conviction. “With skills like yours…,”

“Save it,” The Falleen replied, holding up a clawed hand. Liam blinked, as the alien turned on his heel. “I’ve no interest in your cause. The only path I follow is my own.”

“We shall see,” Liam replied quietly, as the alien melted into the crowd. He smiled to himself, as he drew his cloak back over his shoulders. “The Force works in mysterious ways.”


The Smuggler

Knight Commander’s Logs: Scheat Eclipseflame - 39 ABY, June 25, 2015

“You sure you want to do this, kid?” The gruff voice of the Weequay pirate asked, as he leaned across the Sabacc table. Smoke lingered in the hazy air of the Kraken’s Claw cantina as he leaned back, the spikes on his chin twisting as he grinned.

“You’ve won all I’ve got so far,” Scheat replied, his blue mouth widening into a pearly white grin. The Nautolan shook out his head-tails as he leaned back in his seat, cards held loosely in his left hand while he sipped a glowing drink from his right. “Might as well go all-in.” Setting his drink down, he shoved his remaining credit pile into the mix, looking at his opponents with a smile.

The pirate crew almost jumped at the opportunity, two humans and a burly Trandoshan shoving their own chips into the pile. They were like a cross-section of the cantina’s regular patrons, an intermingling of human and alien smugglers, pirates, and merchants flowing between the Mon Cal majority. As the closest cantina to the Dac Compound’s landing pads, the Kraken’s Claw was the go-to spot for spacers, travellers, and traders who came to deal with the business-savvy Mon Calamari of the Dac Compound.

That also made it a haven for gamblers, rogues, and renegades. Eclipseflame’s smile widened as he thought about it, looking over the patrons casually as his opponents drew their cards.

The Jedi Knight couldn’t help but think of the lightsaber clipped to his belt, and of how the people of the Compound had looked at him when he’d first started frequenting their hotels and restaurants. Scheat didn’t begrudge them their looks, and indeed had answered each with a smile and a warm greeting; in time, he’d come to be known as a charming scoundrel and ne’er-do-well, beloved of children and admonished by adults all over the Compound. He liked it that way; here, he was best known as a friendly face and, at worst, a troublemaker. Few even thought of him as a Jedi, and that suited him; once, he’d have worn his lightsaber like a badge of honor and flaunted his power to all, as he’d been trained to do.

That had all changed after Korriban. He brushed aside the dark memories of that heat-scorched ruin of a world; cantinas, drinks, and Sabacc chips were far better things to think about.

“Well?” The Trandoshan of the group snarled, his claws drawing small scratches in the table as he gripped its edges. “What’ve you got, squid-face?”

Scheat smiled as he looked at the pile of credits before him; it had been piled high, twice as large as it was now, before his losing streak had begun. Now, while still large, it wasn’t nearly as huge as it had been. The pirates eyes his chips hungrily, and Scheat relaxed, feeling at their emotions with the Force as he’d been taught to do by his Masters. They were eager, greedy, and cocksure; the cards hadn’t been with the Nautolan at all that night, and though diminished, his credits could easily double any of their piles with one bad hand.

Scheat looked them over, sitting forward in his seat; he flicked his right wrist quietly as he did, letting his cards drop inconspicuously under the table as his Idiot’s Array slid into his waiting palm. It paid to have the winning hand; their chips would easily quadruple his winnings. “Looks to me,” he said confidently, laying the cards out on the table, “Like I just got rich.”

Silence filled the cantina, as the Nautolan became distinctly aware of just how many of the patrons therein had been watching their game, seeing the flow of bad luck and the risky plays the smuggler had been going in on. Glancing around, the corners of his smile fell a bit as he saw the calculating, judgmental eyes of Mon Cals and aliens alike on him, as the four pirates at the table went deadly silent, staring into their suddenly-empty piles of credits. They’d each just lost thousands of credits, multiple jobs’ worth of money that could have gone to supplies, liquor, and merrymaking. Credits that had been taken from them by a sudden upstart with an impossible hand.

It was as the Trandoshan began to stand that Scheat realized he may have gotten himself in over his head. “You…” He snarled, before bellowing at him. “You cheated!” A reptilian snarl escaped the bestial alien’s lips, as he gripped the bolted-down table and tore it free with ease, flipping it over. Scheat rolled out of his chair as it fell back, sprinting for the exit.

“Come back here!” The Weequay bellowed after him, as the quartet shoved patrons and droids aside, violence in their eyes.

Scheat emerged from the cantina to midday heat, sprinting down the streets and causeways of the Compound. High, ovoid buildings stretched into the sky, some of them conical and smooth, official, while others were unique, almost organic in design, the way a Mon Calamari cruiser might have been. Domes, archways, and awnings stretched out over streets bordering long, wide channels, as the Nautolan sprinted across bridges and into alleyways. The sounds of roars and bellows were hot on his heels as he went, dimmed faintly by the hum of airspeeders that zipped between the towers above and the swish and rumble of skiffs and hovercrafts. Brightly-colored sails, some smooth, others spiny, dotted the waterways of the Compound as Mon Cal citizens travelled to and fro, dressed in the regal and official-looking styles of their City-State.

“Stop!” One of the humans called, as he closed the gap toward Scheat. Leaping over the channel, he caught hold of a passing news probe, riding it to land in a roll beside the Jedi. “I’ve got you now, you little-…,” His words turned into a sharp choking noise, as Scheat threw a suckerpunch into the man’s throat.

The wheeze turned into a groan as the Nautolan quickly followed up with a hard knee to the groin, shoving the pained pirate aside into the canal below with a splash. The harsh retort of blaster pistols sounded nearby, as the remaining pirates let off shots at their quarry; a nearby pair of Compound Marines took notice, levelling their long rifles at the pirates and firing back, their blue stun bolts rocketing toward the pirates. Two of them ducked; the Trandoshan simply roared, soaking up the blasts before putting two wide holes in the chests of the marines and continuing on.

“Not good!” Scheat cried, as the lizard seemed to leap clean over the canal and drop to all-fours. He sprinted faster, grabbing his saber, hoping he didn’t need to pull it out. “Definitely not good!”

His breathing fevered, the Nautolan barely kept ahead of the animalistic pirate as he went, vaulting over obstacles and running across low walls and up fences, thankful every moment for his Ataru training. Slashing aside a barricade, he ran into an alleyway, coming around the corner to find himself in a dead end, his eyes darting frantically for a way out. Hot on his heels, the pirates came around the corner with a stream of obscenities, their weapons drawn and ready for the kill. They slid into the dead end with a growl, as looks of rage turned slowly into gazes of confusion.

The Nautolan was gone. “Find him!” The Trandoshan snapped, his lizard lips peeled back to expose rows of vicious teeth, eyes scanning the shadows to try and make out the Nautolan’s heat. “He can’t have gone far. Spread out!” After a few seconds, they scattered, rushing back to the alleyways to try and corner their fleeing foe.

Minutes passed; silence swept through the alleyway, only the flowing noise of water from beneath a grate in the floor breaking the empty echoes of the departing pirates. From the water emerged the slow, blue dome of a Nautolan’s head, his black eyes sweeping the area to search for attackers as he reached out to the Force, seeking nearby hostiles. Smiling to himself, he slid aside the grate he’d moved to jump into the channel, pulling himself up and shaking off his wet clothes.

“Works every time,” He said to himself with a chuckle, tapping a few keys on his wrist-mounted datapad to ensure no water had slipped into its workings.

“Of that,” An elderly voice above him called, making him jump out of his skin, “I have no doubt.”

Scheat span on his feet, wide eyes taking in the form of an old man, seated on the edge of a rooftop above. Feet wrapped in the oldest leather boots Scheat had ever seen idly hung in the air, as the cloaked one appraised the Nautolan before him from under bushy brows, eyes bright in a weather-worn face. The Nautolan slowly smiled at the man, shaking his wet head-tails out and placing his hands on his hips. No wonder I didn’t sense him, He thought to himself. I’m not even that relaxed when I’m asleep.

“I know you,” He said slyly, looking the old man over. “Liam Torun. You’re on the Council, back at the Praxeum.”

“Indeed I am,” Liam replied, leaning back and looking up at the maritime sky. Reptavian gulls and fisher birds swept through the air, alongside speeders and slow-moving weather droids. “What brings a Jedi Knight to the gambling dens of the Dac Compound?”

“Guess I like hooka smoke and cheesy music,” The Nautolan replied. “What brings a Councillor to a random rooftop?”

“People-watching, one might say.” Liam replied. “Dangerous way to lead your life. Those pirates may have been too much for you; you’d have had to kill them.”

“I do alright. Besides,” The Nautolan grinned, producing a golden cred-chip and flipping it through the air, catching it with ease, “Gambling’s almost as lucrative as smuggling. Almost.”

“Ah, indeed. You have the skills of a smuggler?” Liam asked, an eyebrow raised. “Perhaps you could be of service, then. To put your skills toward your duties, and the higher purpose we all serve.”

Slowly, the Nautolan’s smile faded; his own brow raised, wide, black eyes studying the old Consular before him. “Duty? Higher purpose?” He asked. He had a sneaking suspicion he knew what was coming next. “And that would be?”

“Why, the Force,” Torun replied with a smile. “All Jedi have a duty to it; to use their powers for the good of all, more than just for themselves.” He looked around at the Compound, eyes studying the busy people in the streets, the businessmen, civilians, and soldiers that scrambled about their daily lives. “Unless you’d rather waste the days here, collecting and spending credits, eating and drinking. Buying and selling.” He looked Scheat over, and for a second the Nautolan went cold; it was almost as if the man could see through him. “Seems a shame, living in an endless loop. We were meant for something more.”

For a moment, Eclipseflame let the words sink in, the glimmers of truth pulling at the selfish lifestyle he’d built for himself. “Well,” He said, shaking it off with his trademark charm, “I’ll let you know if I ever want a job in the hero department.” He strode from the alleyway with a confident swagger, the voices of his pursuers long gone. “Good talk, old man.”

As he went, he swept his eyes over the storefronts of the Compound, unable to shake a new viewpoint as he studied them all. Restaurants that had seemed like fine cuisine suddenly seemed like such a waste; he’d been to half, and the other half wouldn’t let him in anymore. The cantinas were old, and he had to keep rotating, lest cheated sabacc opponents find him. Even smuggling jobs were becoming stale, he had to admit, and he didn’t have a taste for the nastier stuff like weapons or spice. A creaking voice beside him drew his attention, causing him to look down.

A shaking hand held out a cup, a Quarren in a ragged robe looking up with desperation. His pale complexion and thin face showed how desperate he was. “Please, Master Jedi,” He croaked, his voice hoarse and weak. “Spare a coin?”

Scheat looked him over for a moment, his hand in his pocket, wrapped around his winnings from the bar; with a sigh, he produced them, dropping the chips into the alien’s cup with a clang and strolling away. Alright, He admitted to himself, Maybe the old man has a point. Maybe. Shaking his head to clear it, he put his smile back on, strolling toward the next cantina.

Maybe this time, he’d actually get to walk out of the bar.


The Ronin

Knight Commander’s Logs: Umi Zen - 39 ABY, June 27, 2015

The soft, near-silent footsteps of the expedition seemed at odds with the serenity of the mountain valley, as Umi Zen strode between the ranks of Gioki Harakoans and scientists into the clearing below. Soft, bluish mists swirled throughout the air, obscuring tall trees and ferns as they passed around and through them, tall mountain grasses parting as they travelled through; the Jedi couldn’t help but to peer into them as she went, though her guides had assured her that little in the way of Kamuekiko’s insect life could live this far up into the Blue Mountains.

“We are close,” Turico Yemets, the priest before her, said softly as he peered through the trees. Dressed in white, primitive cotton robes and wielding before him a tall walking stick, he looked the image of a tribal shaman. “Listen; the Great Father grows quiet as we approach.”

The Jedi listened, closing her eyes and reaching out with the Force as she did. Lifeforms were present, to be sure, but they were quiet and hidden; their energy ebbed and flowed through the air, mingling with the life in the trees and the eddies of the Living Force as it swam through the spaces between air and ground, between particles of stone and the roots of the plants among them. Everything was hushed and still, even compared to the typical quiet of a mountain pass; a sense of tension, of cautious silence, lingered over the area. The Jedi shivered faintly, glancing behind her as she did. The stillness had her on edge.

Umi glanced about, hearing only the distant trill of a barsa bird. She couldn’t help but feel like she was being followed. “Is it usually this quiet here?”

“It wasn’t before,” one of the scientists behind her quipped. A Twi’lek named Iskil, his purple lekku hung down his back as he looked at his datapad, his brown and green jungle gear a sharp contrast to the pale garb of the natives. “Last time we were in this region, we couldn’t go two feet without seeing some new rodent, or reptile.”

“Perhaps the loud steps of outsider boots scare them off,” The sharp voice of one of the Harakoan sentinels around them hissed.

The Jedi looked over the Virem sentinels that accompanied them, sizing up their tall, muscled frames and the confident flow of their movements. A warrior caste, Umi recalled reading that the Virem had been exiled from the Iwu Gioki in ancient times, only to be forgiven and become their defenders. White tunics adorned with patches of leather armor covered their bodies, their arms and legs painted with white symbols of the Optui Turico, the tribe’s religious leaders. Each of the six carried a short, heavy-looking club with a stone blade, while four of them wielded heavy polearms over their shoulders. Surprisingly, she saw that two of them wielded older blaster rifles as well, these painted white in several places and adorned with Turico symbols; the Treaty of Menat Ombo had brought such weapons to the Harakoan tribes, but even the peaceful Gioki were stubbornly insistent on their traditions. At first, it had annoyed her; thinking on it now, she thought of her own heritage, of being a daughter of the House of Zen. The pale blue Hanfu she wore was a testament to the power of heritage.

Perhaps all traditions held some merit. “Doctor Iskil, how close are we?”

“We should be nearing the site now,” He replied. Slight, with a nasally voice and a pair of goggles on his head, he was the antithesis of the warriors that surrounded him. It was made worse by his skin, a bright shade of violet that made him stand out from his colleagues. “No more than a few meters…” He looked up. “We’re here. I… oh, my.” He exclaimed, rushing toward the site.

Umi’s hazel eyes blinked as they peered through the fog, which swirled slowly around hulking shapes before clearing as they entered the pass. What she’d taken for a simple dirt road soon flowed into pale cobblestones, filthy and cracked from eons of disuse; they wound between huge stone buildings, all of them designed in an elegant architecture and showing symbols and adornments that spoke to advanced masonry. The buildings - temples? Perhaps dwellings, or storehouses? - stood in a neat pattern, open windows and doorways speaking to a social culture. Streets wound between them, their intersections adorned with blasted statues and obelisks. Ancient white fountains sat in central locations, some of them cracked and shattered, pools of stagnant green water having swelled within over centuries of rain and evaporation. Vines and other flora were everywhere, growing between cracks and through gaps in streets and buildings. One of the larger buildings looked to have been smote in half, a massive tree growing up through its ruin.

“By the Force…” Zen whispered, her eyes widening. Her flowing robes swished as she walked between the tall buildings, calculating eyes trying to take everything in. “Look at this place. Where did it come from?”

“Looks to be Maia’Toa, or at least from that time period,” Iskil replied. He typed furiously on his datapad as he studied the environs, taking pictures and jotting down details. “Perhaps a military site, or a religious one?”

“It was a village,” The Virem captain spoke up behind them. A burly man named Kamahu, he was as covered in old scars as the rest of his men were in glyphs and symbols. “A ‘town,’ in your outsider words.” He looked to his men, barking commands in Giokese and setting them to task. “People lived here, long ago.”

“Long before the Gioki, even,” Iskil said, as he studied the stonework of a cobbled street. “Fascinating.”

“Impossible,” Turico Yemets interjected. “The Great Father showed us to this land, and no other.”

Umi looked about, the tight topknot of her dark red hair swishing as she did. “But how do we know it was a town?” She asked them. “Up here, in the mountain pass? There aren’t any rivers, or streams to draw from.”

“They brought the river to them,” Kamahu replied. “Come, we will show you.”

It emerged from the mists as they approached, first a shadow, then as a white monolith stretching up to the sky. Easily a hundred feet in height, the winding stone aqueduct stood firm, its ends shorn off by calamity and time eons prior. Immense, it shadowed everything else in the clearing, thick vines climbing its entirety and yet still unable to block out the pale stones it had been built from. The Jedi looked at it, studying it closely; when it was intact, it would have spanned kilometers, carrying water to this and potentially other settlements. The sight of it filled her with awe.

“Amazing,” Iskil said, interrupting her thoughts. She frowned; even if the Council had decided she should investigate, she didn’t see why all of these others had to come. Iskil in particular slowed the whole team down, stopping to peek at everything. “Such stonework… I didn’t think Harakoans could do it. No offense,” He said, looking back to the stone-faced sentinels behind them.

“Perhaps we should stop underestimating them,” She replied.

She looked back to the Harakoans, as they mumbled to one another in Giokese; she didn’t know the tongue, but a quick primer let her identify the words ‘small’ and ‘weak.’ As they should stop underestimating me. Iskil called the team of scientists together as she mused, giving them commands to study and catalogue the area as the Virem moved through the clearing, seeking danger and potential threats. Turico Yemets moved beside her, watching closely, eager to ensure nothing was taken and no mistakes were made. Looking at the stern expression he wore, she at first felt irritation, before stopping to consider the source of his anxiety.

This clearing held ancient relics, works that predated his people by eons. Their very existence threatened every truth he’d ever grown up with, the legends he and his order were responsible, bound by duty, to protect. She thought to her own upbringing; an epicanthix from Panatha, she’d been raised from childhood on the values and customs of her family’s ancestors. From the rapier hilt that hung next to her saber, to the pale blue silk of her flowing hanfu robes, her image and mannerisms spoke volumes about the Baturuto Clan. Uniformity, solidarity, and freedom; they flowed within her, as surely as the Force flowed through living things. To have them taken… she held back a swell of sadness, thinking of the Batosai invaders her people had faced. To the family she’d lost.

She knew well the pain of her culture being under fire. She went to speak to the Turico, only to stop at a sudden noise. In the distance, a low, bellowing howl rang throughout the clearing. “What was that?”

Suddenly, the Virem were rushing back to their priest, emerging from the mists with urgency that brought worry to her heart. “Hutan’kera,” Kamahu said quickly, eyes scanning the brush. “Fast in the trees, deadly on land. We need to leave.”

“My team is still out there,” Umi said, shaking her head. Pulling her comlink from her robes, she spoke into it, cold and efficient. “Insight Team, this is Guardian. Report in, we’re leaving.”

“Can’t… under attack…,” A hurried voice echoed, among the sounds of crashing and screams. “Something… the trees… karabest, it’s huge! Have to- Agh!” The voice cut off in a shriek, as the forms of a pair of scientists came sprinting from the tree line, yelling in panic.

“Form up!” Umi shouted to them, trying desperately to bring them back into line. “Where’s the rest of your team? Where’s-…,” Something came sailing through the air, something large and humanoid, sailing over their heads to smash an ancient statue to rubble.

Umi hurried toward the statue, only to come up short with a gasp, her stomach turning at the sight. Iskil’s ruined corpse lay sprawled across the rubble, purple skin stained by crimson blood, his insides torn loose. His limbs were bent at odd angles, left leg torn off, face frozen forever in a scream; cold eyes stared up from broken goggles. The Jedi felt a pang of guilt as she looked into them; she’d never realized how blue they’d been, inquisitive and searching.

She turned, as the heavy steps of the approaching beast sounded; tall and pale-furred, it lurched forward on short, thick hind legs, massive six-foot arms leading it forward. Curved, bloody claws revealed themselves to be several inches long, as the beast stood up to its full nine feet of height; its massive bulk must have weighed half a ton, as its black-faced snout peered out from the pale fur of its huge shoulders and neck. Sharp fangs, nearly tusks, protruded from its lips to curve up past black eyes.

The beast leaned back, letting out a deep, mournful howl as it did; spikes running down its back shook as it bellowed, reverberating the noise throughout the clearing like the hollow tubes of instruments. The Force told the daughter of Zen all she needed to know; that was a killing howl. “Run,” She said, taking off throughout the clearing.

Turning, the group of Harakoans and scientists scrambled through ruins, trying not to trip over the debris of a forgotten age as the hutan’kera hurtled after them. Its long arms explained themselves as it hurled itself forward, springing through the clearing with a speed to rival Nexu on Malastare. As it met with statues and obstructions, it leaned into them, its massive shoulders crushing old stone and hurling relics aside; buildings became leaping points, its massive claws gripping onto holds no humanoid hand could have found. Sunni cursed as it scaled ten feet of the aqueduct’s side in seconds, only to hurtle itself from rooftop to rooftop; the damned thing was somehow faster in the air. The morbid idea that it was meant to fly entered her mind; the Force must’ve denied it wings, lest it eat everything on the planet.

Barging ahead of the group with ease, the hutan’kera landed before them with a crash, bellowing and charging forward. Virem spears and polearms stabbed toward it, catching hold of a thick hide and drawing crimson streams of blood; it simply smashed them aside, mighty swipes of its arms knocking back the first warriors even as their peers moved in. They moved like clockwork, two engaging and falling back as two more darted in. In moments, the beast’s fur was slaked with scarlet, its rage building as it came on in more and more vicious attacks.

The snap of Kamahu’s weapon brought dread to the hearts of the warriors, as the massive beast pinned the weapon’s head to the ground and broke the haft with a flick of its wrist. Blaster shots from the final two Virem rang out, firing from the hip and finding purchase across its torso; they scorched fur and flesh, slowing the beast for but a moment. An angry howl showed just how effective they’d been, as the beast rushed toward the riflemen and swatted them aside. Catching the smaller of the two, it held him to the ground, a series of vicious hammer blows crushing the screaming man’s bones to gravel before he’d had a chance to blink.

A massive hunk of white stone seemed to fly through the air, smashing into the beast’s shoulder blades and giving it pause. Turning from the ruined tribal, it snarled, as a slender figure emerged from the mist.

“Jedi,” Kamahu whispered, as Umi let her pale cloak drop to the ground. The stories he’d heard seemed to materialize before him, as all the jungle hushed at her approach.

Her left hand extended, as the silvery hilt of her lightsaber flipped up from her belt, flying into her waiting palm; with a flourish, she ignited the blade, its snap-hiss piercingly loud as its thrumming glow forced back the mountain’s mists. Held at her side, its tip trailed the ground as she walked, the graceful steps of a dancer seeming more like those of a jungle cat. She neared the beast without flinching, staring it down as it lurched toward her, beating the ground and bellowing at her in challenge. It closed to within three feet of her, back arched, shoulders wide as it tried to shout her down.

The Jedi didn’t flinch; with a bellow, the beast’s arm came down, a blow that would have crushed her in an instant. Kamahu’s eyes closed… only to hear the beast strike ground, and cry out in agony.

Her lightsaber shrieked like a lightning strike as it carved through the monster’s ribs, parting flesh and bone as easily as butter. It roared, turning with freakish speed, its arms swinging to and fro like a pair of massive clubs; she danced and dove aside from each, right arm behind her back, stepping with a rhythm like a dancer in an elegant ballet. It struck, and she leaned, her blade flashing upward; a black line appeared in its shoulder, before it snapped at her with its massive jaws. She dove back, a twist of her wrist carving one of its tusks free before slashing a deep rent in its arm. The beast scampered back, only to bellow once more. With a violent charge, it dove after her, a pounce too quick for any mundane eye to follow.

It was fast; she was faster. Darting aside, her blade twirled as she spun, coming across to hack a deep slash in its hind leg.

Growling, hunched over, the beast snarled and barked at her as it limped aside, smashing its arms against the ground. The rage and pain within had driven it mad; with a bellow, it charged awkwardly for its prey, claws extended and arms crashing down in a mad series of blows. The Jedi did not flinch, nor did she evade; she waited, her lips slowly moving, mouthing shapes none could hear.

Counting, Kamahu realized, as she sprang into action.

A massive arm came down, digging a trench in the ground; a light left boot pressed into it, the other foot dancing up onto its opposing bicep before her left danced up onto its shoulder. The beast’s vision went red, fury and agony a maelstrom of fire as it charged; then, with a sharp press from above, the world of the hutan’kera went murky black. It hit the ground in a heap, the Jedi riding its bulk to a smooth landing, her hands in a rare two-palm grip as they drove the blade down into the monster’s skull.

Silence followed the crash, as she danced down onto the ground below. “Jedi,” Kamahu said to her, approaching with a look of humbled awe. “We…” He began, as he and his warriors began to sink into a one-kneed bow. “We are…”

“You are fine,” She said coolly, waving them off and clipping her blade back onto her belt. “Any Jedi Knight could have done the same. I merely acted.” She looked to the downed Harakoan with concern; he was groaning, as his allies moved to pick him up. “Is he…?”

“He is badly hurt,” Kamahu replied. “Only time will tell us his fate now.” He looked up suddenly, his crested head angled toward a distant sound. Within seconds, Umi heard it, too; a low rumbling, high above the trees. “A beast?”

“A transport,” Sunni said, a smile breaking out on her face. “Iskil must have called for help, before…” She cut off, sadness returning to her eyes.

“He is at peace, now,” Kamahu said to her, a firm hand patting her shoulder. “He died well, defending his people.” She looked to him, before smiling and nodding, the compliment ringing like the words of her father might’ve.

An LAAT swung into view above, before descending for a vertical landing, its loud engines pushing aside tendrils of fog as its side doors slid open. Tanduran Commandoes and Melewati Bushfighters emerged from the craft, bristling with weapons, moving out in concentric rings as their leader stepped from the craft, bare, brown feet pressing into the soil below. V’yr Vorsa’s confident amber eyes swept across the clearing as she emerged, the Neti’s bark-brown skin smooth as the green moss and leaves of her hair spilled over her shoulders. The plantlike Peacekeeper’s stance softened as she sensed the lack of danger, and saw the fallen beast.

“General, the area’s secure,” One of the armored men that had accompanied her reported.

“Very good. Set up a perimeter, and search for any wounded.” Vorsa approached Sunni, her eyes sweeping over the dead hutan’kera. “Guardian Zen. We received word that you needed help.”

“We did,” The Epicanthix replied, sighing as she motioned back to where the beast had emerged. “That creature attacked us; I had to put it down. We’ve wounded, and casualties; Doctor Iskil’s body is back there. We need a medical team, and search and rescue.”

Vorsa nodded. “For now, we need to evacuate any wounded and secure the area.” Her eyes widened as she took in the stonework of the clearing, and the massive aqueduct. “Maia’Toa?” She said, awe filling her voice. “We knew they were advanced, but this…”

“Master Vorsa,” Umi interjected, “Their warrior is badly wounded. I’d… I’d like to accompany him, see he gets treatment.” She said.

The Neti’s eyebrow quirked up at the request. “Oh?” She asked, looking to the downed Virem sentinel. “I wasn’t aware you had affections for the Harakoans.”

“It’s not that. They fought with honor, and without fear.” The Baturuto Epicanthix said. “That… resonates with me. They’ve earned my respect.”

For a moment, the Proconsul eyed her, considering the request; she then nodded, before looking to the dead beast. “Very well,” She replied. “This creature’s covered in wounds; it must have put up quite a fight,” She said.

“It did. I recommend we study it, so we know how to handle it in the future.” Umi bowed low, before heading for the LAAT and the wounded. “May the Force be with you,” She said.

“And you,” Vorsa replied, returning the bow. Though it would seem, She thought to herself, as the impromptu savior departed, It is with you already.


The Scarred One

Knight Commander’s Logs: Sa Ool - 39 ABY, June 27, 2015

Greenish clouds wafted across a sky painted orange, as the Kel Dor’s eyes peered outward from behind the lenses of his breath mask. Flashes of lightning rippled now and then across the clouds, too far away for thunder; he watched them pulse between the gusts of acrid wind that swept through the poisoned grasses and plants below, hardy lifeforms that survived on Quesh’s surface by will alone. Sa smiled behind his mask as he looked on them, marred and deformed as they were. They existed simply because they refused to die.

The Guardian’s eyes went to his hands, and the scars that rested there; marks of past confrontations, mirrored by those across his body, a tale of battle written in orange flesh. They reminded him of himself.

Rolling over atop the complex, Sa watched as the flare of light in the atmosphere signaled the arrival of his quarry, as he drew his dark brown hood overtop of his head and lay still; even with sensors, the acidic atmosphere of the planet and his drab hues would keep him hidden from all but the finest sensors. He needn’t have bothered, of course, as no one came to Quesh expecting company. All the more reason to be careful, He thought to himself. He knew if he was careless, one day someone would be watching, and he’d end up dead.

His eyes narrowed, as he watched the shuttle descend; the markings on its sides were clear, as were the stormtroopers that departed in military formation, the sign of twin dragons around an Imperial emblem. Scholae Palatinae. The Imperial Clan was stationed in Hutt Space, he knew, and they dealt with many dealers, often in the open. This was different.

The sound of speeders in the distance raised even more suspicions, as he watched an Imperial official in crisp uniform emerge from the shuttle, breather gear placed firmly upon his head. He pulled out a comlink, his voice gruff as he spoke into it. “Master,” He said quietly, “A full platoon of stormtroopers, led by an official. Looks mundane.”

“Their intent?” The voice of T’la, wise and deep, surprisingly so for a Kushiban, sounded over the comm.

Sa turned, watching the landspeeders of the pirates draw near. They were hauling heavy crates; not the sort of thing for shipping drugs, or goods. “Looks like a weapons deal.”

“That can’t be good,” T’la replied. Sa nodded, subconsciously moving his left eyebrow; the burns above it stretched as he did, burns he’d earned at T’la’s hand during his redemption. So many years ago, now, He thought to himself. “We should contact the Council, let Kituri and the others handle this.”

“I disagree. They wouldn’t have come all this way for nothing,” Ool replied, watching as the pirates entered the complex from the opposite side. Three of them, Niktos all, probably from some gangster’s cartel. “I should take a look.”

“Careful,” T’la replied, and Sa couldn’t help but check himself. In his youth, he’d already have entered, especially when he’d had the Knights to back him up; now, especially after Korriban, the Kel Dor knew he had to be more cautious. “We don’t know the ramifications of this; they could be carrying dangerous weapons.”

“Exactly,” Sa replied, taking his saber hilt in hand. “If they came all this way, they’re trying to avoid scrutiny, from us and the Hutts. That can’t be good.”

For a moment, silence; then, the creaking, tired voice of his Master sounded again. “You’re right. But be careful,” He said, weariness turning to iron in a moment. “If you’re seen, it could have bad ramifications for the Clan.”

“Don’t worry, Master,” Sa said in reply. He activated his blade, pressing it into the durasteel beneath his feet. “I won’t be seen.”

Several feet below, a pair of stormtroopers strode through the halls, talking. Polished white plastoid armor protected them from the elements, large survival gear mounted on their backs as they walked a crisp patrol through the halls. These weren’t Palpatine’s soldiers of old, planetary conscripts with minimal training, often the butt of a joke; these belonged to the Cocytus System, where the Brotherhood’s most Imperial Clan held discipline on high. Even so, as they chatted, neither of them caught sight of the shadow that dropped down behind them - even as it disappeared into a nearby nook, peering out at them.

Patiently, the Jedi waited for them to stop, inspecting the area around them; once they completed their inspection, they moved on, to regroup with the next watch. Perfect.

Grease stained his hand and arm as he pushed off from the cold machinery of his hiding spot, moving along metal gratings with practiced silence. All about him, the pipes and vents of old mechanisms hung low, decrepit and rusted after millennia of disuse. This had been a place of industry for the Old Republic long ago, a place where the components for the Quell toxin favored by the old Sith Empire had been refined into adrenals for use by the Republic’s troopers. Battles had been fought here, won and lost; here and there amidst the rust and filth, Ool could see carbon scoring, or the remnants of an explosion. One corridor had a wide blast hole from a passing starfighter; The Jedi would have entered there, but he couldn’t be certain if time had worsened the damage and made the approach unsafe. Nearing a wide window, the glass within broken long ago, he looked down upon a wide balcony above the meeting place; a lone stormtrooper patrolled it, watching the arms dealers below. One word into his comlink and the entire force would have converged.

Ool looked the man over before nodding to himself; carefully, he edged between the few dusty shards still clinging to the window. He waited for the trooper to check in, speaking to his colleagues; after a few seconds, he lowered his arms, resuming his walk.

A shadow fell from above; he didn’t even have a chance to scream.

“I’m sure our reputation precedes us,” The leader of the three Nikto, charming and handsome by that race’s standards, smiled at the Officer before him. “We’ve been dealing with your Empire for years, and your Lord assures me-…,”

“Assurances are but words,” The Officer retorted crisply. “I was sent to inspect your cargo, not to ramble on about your integrity. Will you unlock the cases, or not?”

The Nikto twitched; Sa sensed a flare of anger, until the man looked over the soldiers amassed before him. With another smile, he nodded. “Of course. Gentlemen, show our customers what we have to offer.”

With a series of clicks, the cases opened; Sa looked down into them, eyes widening in disbelief.

The shining barrels and black stocks of disruptor rifles gleamed up from within, cases of ammo nestled between them, enough for a full company of troopers. A second crate opened to reveal detonators, charges, and incendiary explosives - all crowd suppression weapons, cruel and illegal on nearly all Brotherhood worlds, let alone the Galaxy proper. Shrapnel-packed and designed to cause pain and carnage, such an arsenal would obliterate an opposing organic force with extreme prejudice - and would send a statement to any rebels or sympathizers that would resonate for years. The thought of these weapons turned on rebel soldiers - let alone civilians - made Sa sick to his stomach. The third crate’s clasp opened, revealing cargo that turned his frown into a glare.

Slugthrowers. Archaic-looking rifles, chains of ballistic ammunition, cartridges and bullets of old. Anti-Jedi measures, He thought, To ensure we don’t try to help. He had no choice; he had to act.

Too many lives rested in the balance.

“I assume, Captain Kithix, that there are more available upon request?” The Officer asked.

“Of course,” The Nikto replied with a grin. “And I personally guarantee that nothing, not a thing, will compromise these weapons. Unless a Jedi dropped from the sky-…”

His thought was never finished, as a dark shape fell from above, amethyst blade flashing to life and crackling like thunder as it carved through the crate of disruptors. Before anyone could react, Sa was up, his left hand lashing out with a telekinetic blast, sending stormtroopers sprawling across the floor. He didn’t even stop to look at his work before spinning, lightsaber flashing as it batted away the blaster shots of the pirates before him. Darting forward, his blade carved a deep gash in a man’s chest before spinning about, taking another’s legs out from under him with a sweeping kick and planting his saber in the Nikto’s chest. Captain Kithix’s hand came up, a disruptor pistol clenched as he let off a volley, roaring with fury at the Guardian before him.

Sa’s blade spun, smashing shot after shot away; on the last one, he batted it backward, where it smashed into the Captain’s side. The Nikto let out a blood-curdling scream as his tissues and bones were burned apart, their molecules disintegrating as he fled in agony.

Spinning about, Sa rushed toward the fallen Imperials as they began to rise, their blasts shot wide or dodged as he moved in for the kill. Striking with precision, he bisected a man with a vicious downward chop before stabbing his blade through another, spinning and pulling it free to bring it across the chest of a third. Quick, methodical, and brutal, his two-handed grip tore stormtroopers down, attackers laid low from the front while those who fled found a blade in their back. Finally, he turned to see the Officer, the last one with knowledge of his work.

Just in time to see him load a slugthrower, cock it, and aim it at him. “Die, Jedi scum!” He roared, squeezing the trigger.

Within the chamber, tiny explosions rattled the weapon, a cacophony of ballistic hell as the heavy machine gun’s rounds tore a hole in anything before them. The Kel Dor turned, running from the onslaught, ducking behind cover wherever he could; primitive and touchy, the slugs that weapon fired were too fast for his eyes, or his lightsaber, to follow. The Officer’s clip ran dry and he reloaded, as the Kel Dor tried to advance on his position in the interlude; a blast of gunfire forced him back, to hide behind an empty chemical silo.

“You think you’ll kill me, too?” The Officer bellowed, backing toward the exit. He took up an incendiary grenade from the crate as he passed, depressing it and hurling it toward the Kel Dor’s position. Sa barely managed to roll free as flames and shrapnel shot across the floor, forcing him to dive and duck to avoid another barrage of gunfire. “The Emperor will burn your world to glass!”

Cursing, Sa took cover, listening as the spray of fire continued… and stopped, with a stream of Basic curses flowing from without, and the sounds of a hand smashing against a rifle. Ammunition jam. Sa took his moment, leaping from cover, his hand lashing out toward the crate of explosives; it flipped into the air, squarely pinning the man beneath it. Before he could even react, the Jedi was there, leaping over the fallen crate and slashing the man’s weapon in two.

“You think you’ve won?” The Officer bellowed. “They’ll find me. They’ll find this whole complex! What do you think will happen to your precious world after that, Jedi?”

“I think,” He replied, deactivating his saber and picking up a grenade, “That I’ll have to burn this place to the ground.” Depressing the trigger, he jammed the weapon into the man’s mouth, stalking away as it began to pulse its three-second warning.

As the blast went off and the fires began to spread, the Kel Dor never looked back. He was back at his ship before the hour had passed.

Taking a deep breath, Sa leaned against the pilot’s seat, thinking of the mission and the actions he’d undertaken. A younger Jedi would have been appalled; a Sith would have been gleeful. Sa wasn’t sure where he fit into that equation, not anymore; T’la would have admonished him for being excessive and cruel, while others would have said he should have let the Council know. He’d moved in to secure the problem; it was only now, in the seat of the cockpit, that he realized why he’d done it.

It was because it was dangerous that he moved in. Because of the rush, and the feeling of significance.

In truth, Sa Ool had been drifting since the sands of Korriban. His thoughts drifted back to that day, to the flash of cannon fire, the screams of hordes of soldiers as Lord Cotelin’s men had thrown themselves at Darth Ashen’s, only to be caught in the middle by Lord Esoteric’s Sith soldiers. It had been a massacre; under that hell, valiant heroes had turned into desperate, savage beasts. Good men had died, and bad men had died, and all who had lived had walked away… hollow. Empty. The ties that bound the Brotherhood had been severed, and many had been scattered to the wind or worse.

Among them had been Sa, and the rest of the Knights of Allusis. Those who weren’t dead had drifted, some of them leaving the Knights for their own ventures, others taking on solo missions like Sa did now. Some had simply disappeared, no longer able to wave the flag in the wake of that war’s devastation. Sa thought back to them, and to his current predicament; in the cockpit of the fighter, he closed his eyes and asked himself, Why? Why do I fight?

Slowly, from deep within his memory, T’la’s voice echoed. Search your feelings, Padawan. The Force will guide you.

Taking a deep breath, Sa closed his eyes, calming his thoughts the way he hadn’t done in months. Slowly, carefully, he let his mind go blank, moving through the Jedi meditation exercises every new student learned in practiced seconds. He let his thoughts drift into the Living Force, feeling, searching its ebb and flow for purpose, truth… future.

His thoughts drifted to New Tython, to his friends back home. The Jedi Knights of Odan-Urr. He saw life, saw peace fall upon the colonies, the tribes, the city-states. He watched as roads were built, cities flourished, as peoples grew together… and then, slowly, a rift. A malaise grew, tension turning peace into stalemate, brother against brother. The hum of a saber; the scream of a woman; the slow, inevitable cracking as peace became fragile, became compromised.

And then, at once, the snap; death was all that he saw, his friends dead at the hands of dark forces. Eyes snapping open, he nodded confidently, firing up his fighter and entering navigational coordinates. He knew who he was, and where he was going.

He was a Knight of Allusis - and he was going home.


The Kid

Knight Commander’s Logs: Gui Sol - 39 ABY, June 28, 2015

“I have you now!” Gui bellowed, triumphantly bringing his blade up for a vicious overhand chop. Suur didn’t stand a chance.

And then, suddenly, Gui found himself falling face-first toward the ground; Suur stood upright from the sweep kick, backing up a few steps, his blade held sideways. “You do know the goal is to hit me, right?” The human asked, a mocking grin on his face.

The Kiffar’s face blushed red at that, as he sprang up and reactivated his training saber. Sprinting toward his foe, he unleashed a flurry of hard chops and slashes, all designed to batter Suur’s defenses and send him to the ground. Instead, the Padawan neatly stepped back with each strike, his blade lightly knocking Gui’s off-balance before he rushed in close, wrapping an arm around the off-balance Defender and rolling him up and over his hip. Gui landed with a thud in the dust, groaning and standing up, resuming a defensive position.

“That’s it,” He snarled, bringing his weapon up. “Prepare to-…,”

“Karabest, if he prepares any harder, he’ll look like Yoda.” Xirini’s voice cut through the crowd. “Match is over, move your ass.”

Gui blinked, looking around at the crowd that had gathered, Masters and Students alike. Jedi Knights renowned across New Tython studied his every move, some of them smirking and others frowning with disapproval. Between them, Padawans and Defenders looked on, some of them sympathetic - Suur was almost a Knight - and others just amused. Deactivating his training blade, he nodded, handing it back to the droid he’d retrieved it from.

“Yes, Master,” He said sullenly, falling in behind Rin. He knew better by now than to challenge her orders.

“Told you not to call me that,” She replied. “Come on. You’ve got work to do.”

“I almost had him!” Gui said.

“No, you didn’t.”

“Come on,” Sol replied, mimicking slashing moves with his hands. “One more good flurry, and-,”

“After that first flurry, you’d have been dead on the floor.” The Cathar’s cold voice cut into his thoughts. “It’s not a cudgel, it’s a lightsaber. Which you should know already.”

“Of course I do. I mean, come on,” Gui said, faux confidence in his voice. Rin stopped in her tracks, staring him down with those piercing, cat-like eyes. “I mean… one of them cuts, and, you know… the other thing…”

She sighed, shaking her head and pinching the bridge of her nose. “Did you even read the fundamental texts you were given?”

“Of course I did,” Gui replied. After another moment of staring, he added sheepishly, “…Well, some of it. The good bits.”

“Mhm.” Rin replied. “Come with me. Lessons are done for the day.”

Gui blinked, shock on his face. “What?! It’s only midday!”

“Yeah, it is,” His Master replied, starting up the hill. “Which means you have all the time in the world to read the damned fundamental texts. Now move your ass, before I move it for you.”

There had been a time when Gui’s every move had been to defy Rin, trying to weasel his way out of lessons and skirt the rules. For a time, he’d resented her; a lot of students at the Praxeum had atypical Masters, some of whom were only recently named Jedi, but Rin couldn’t even use the Force. That time had passed, though; what she lacked in telekinetics and mind-tricks, she more than made up for in wit, skill, and combative prowess. A lesson Gui had painfully learned, but one he was much stronger for.

Gui muttered to himself under his breath, but he fell in line, knowing how literal that threat was. As he went, his eyes slid up to the blue sky, at the puffy white wisps of cloud floating past the sun. It was a beautiful day; Yhi’s warmth swept over everything, the tattoo on his bronze-skinned face shining as he turned his head to look beyond. Built into the mountain, the Arca Praxeum was amazing and awe-inspiring, especially while on the path up to the bunks; sprawling below into the valley was a massive Harakoan site, stone walls standing tall around ancient buildings made new by the Jedi. Masters went to and fro; Jedi practiced telekinetic techniques near the cliff’s edge, while in the courtyard below, ten or fifteen younglings - some of them local kids from the colonies and city-states, some of them off-worlders, half of them teenagers or older - worked the very basics of saber techniques. Those were lessons Gui had learned ages ago.

Which is why he didn’t agree at all with his Master. Entering the main Praxeum, he followed her in sullen silence, until they arrived at his bunk. “Good,” Her cold, imperious tone echoed, “Looks like you’ve still got the datapad.”

“So, hear me out,” He said, putting on his best charming smile. “What if I-…,”

“No,” Rin replied.


“Nope.” She said again, arms crossed.

“But then I could-,” He said, exasperation in his voice.

“No. Slag no. You’re going to sit there and read your fundamentals, and you’re not leaving this door until you’re done. Do I make myself clear?” He nodded petulantly, crossing his own arms. “Good. Now get to it.” With that, she turned and walked out.

Sol grumbled, mouthing obscenities he’d learned from passing soldiers at her as she left. She made him feel like such a child sometimes, with that scolding tone and demanding attitude; he couldn’t get a word in edgewise. He looked at the datapad, at the illustrations of lightsaber techniques and movements, form by form, step by step, in painstaking detail. He picked it up, staring into the digitized tome, the wall upon wall of text already eating at his patience.

“Why do I have to read this stupid thing, anyway?” He asked himself. As he sat back, he felt a sting in his behind, a bruise from training. That’s why, He thought sullenly, leaning back to try and read the tome.

To his credit, he got three pages in before his eyes drifted away toward the ceiling.

Sighing, Gui rolled over, his patience run dry and his mood sour. He’d come to the Praxeum to become a Jedi, a Sentinel. All of the Masters said he had the potential, and praised his Force sensitivity. His earlier lessons with the lightsaber had been perfect, as had his athletics, and his skill slicing a terminal had earned him more than one spot on everyone’s radar. Granted, it wasn’t always good attention, but he had plenty of attention. Now, with the rank of Padawan around the corner, suddenly it was all tomes and textbooks, theory and lore. Xirini had told him it was because he’d advanced so quickly, and that most students didn’t get this far ahead without years of training. So I get punished for doing better, He thought to himself, groaning and picking up the datapad again. He held it aloft, staring into its boring pages.

That was when he caught sight of something in his peripherals; a spider, crawling from a space between the stones.

Sitting upright, he looked upward, seeing a small, rectangular hole that went off through the walls. Idly, he wondered if the harakoans who’d built the temple had designed it as a vent; moving closer to it, ten feet off of the ground as it was, he realized that no one had probably ever grabbed a ladder and looked inside. Like I need a ladder. Grinning, he looked back to ensure no one was watching, before bending his knees and leaping upward. His fingers caught the edge of the hole, and with a breath he pulled himself up and in, wiggling his way through the stones.

“Jackpot,” He said to himself, hearing the faint voices of Jedi far into the distance. Slinking along, he crawled through the space with ease, his hips and shoulders barely brushing against the sides.

Peering out, Gui was treated to a view of every room in the Praxeum, watching as students studied homework, teachers administered lessons, and people chatted about their day. A medical droid watched over a Harakoan, as an Epicanthix stared down at him in worry, conversing with the machine. In another room, a cooking droid prepared food for the younglings, who streamed in eagerly after their exercises. Gui rounded a corner, finding a fork in the road; he decided to go right, crawling another ten feet toward the goal of freedom.

He stopped, his face just clear of a ventilation hole in the floor, to see the Rollmaster pacing about. The man he was talking to had to be seventy, if not eighty; white hair spilled down his back, as a thick beard hung down his chest. His face was the wrinkliest Gui had seen on a human, with big, bushy eyebrows that made him look even older. He leaned casually against a wall, arms crossed, no lightsaber visible on him at all.

“And no one was killed, or injured?” Nathan’s voice was crisp. “No one at all?”

“No one joined with the Force, and I endeavored to seriously injure no one. I can’t speak to the actions of Jalen Ramz.” The old man replied. His face was calm, his tone relaxed, even friendly. “But this is the third assault inside of a week; we’re lucky it was us, and not a villager.”

“I know,” Nathan replied, letting out an exasperated breath. “What do you think we should do?”

“Well,” The old man replied - as his eyes snapped toward Gui. The Kiffar froze, his blood turning to ice as sweat dripped down his forehead, panic swelling within him. He hadn’t noticed how bright the man’s eyes were. It was like he was looking through Gui.

A second passed; the old man winked, and smiled, before turning back to Nathan. “I think the Force’s will is guiding us. I arrived there on time for a reason…” His voice drifted away, as Gui took his chance and scurried off.

The passage widened slightly, and Gui’s eyes took in a sight that made his heart swell with joy - he’d reached the Praxeum’s library. Slowly, carefully, he slipped out of the ventilation corridor and fell to the floor, landing almost silently and scampering up behind a bookshelf. Three or four Jedi prowled this room, some staring into datapads, one reading a musty old paper tome. As they moved about, they gave the odd glance to the room around them, alert even in study; Gui felt a flash of jealousy, wishing his own reflexes were that good.

The Library was massive, a round room of concentric rings of shelves that got lower and lower, joined by stairs until they reached a central ring; the Jedi had moved several tables into the space, and a few sat there now. Moving silently, he scaled one of the stone bookshelves before sprinting toward another, hopping across the chasm between them and catching the ledge with his fingertips. He crawled to the top, before hopping up to the railing on the level above. Glancing about, he made sure no one was watching before crawling his way up, keeping low behind the railing to mask his approach.

He came around the corner, before seeing on the level above him the ultimate prize - the databank chamber.

Gui nearly giggled at the thought, being connected to the holonet and all of the Clan’s knowledge like that. Forget fundamentals - he could watch video of infamous duels, witness firsthand epic space battles and ground invasions. He’d be able to look up any fact, study any secret. I can even look up stormtrooper fail videos, He thought eagerly to himself. He slipped closer to the doorway, watching as a Jedi exited, the oak door sliding inward, ready to lock shut. In that moment, he knew, it was now or never.

His rambling, hyperactive mind went silent; he became attuned to every sound, every heartbeat, as he slipped a throwing knife out of his belt. His wrist flicked; the blade flipped, in what seemed like slow motion, end over end, sailing like some beautiful cetacean in a crystal ocean.

It landed with a soft plunk, its tip sticking into the door and holding it open.

With a grin, Gui sprinted toward the door, carefully opening it and drawing his knife free. Replacing it on his belt, he gently guided the door toward its closed position, careful not to let the hinges squeak or the lock click loudly when it engaged. Grinning, he wiped his hands off, turning around to face the databank…

“Well, well” Xirini said, her arms crossed as she stood before him. Glee turned into sheer, mortal terror with every word. “How were the fundamental texts?”

He backed toward the door, before finding it suddenly locked behind him. With a grin, he held his hands up. “In my defense,” He said sheepishly, watching his Master stare daggers at him, “I didn’t go through that door.”


The Marksman

Knight Commander’s Logs: Torin Ardell - 39 ABY, June 30, 2015

“Two degrees north,” The spotter, a man named Deren, quietly mumbled. “Hold… hold…” The angle of the wind changed; Torin felt it, as the currents brushed at his hair. “Fire. Fire. Fire.”

A mechanical slide and thud were all the noise that emerged from the rifle as Ardell’s finger squeezed the trigger. Magnetic rails within the QuietSnipe rifle’s barrel took hold of the metal slug held in its chamber, the projectile accelerating to speeds beyond any human eye, zipping with near-silence across hundreds of feet in moments. A squawk and a puff of feathers greeted Torin’s eye as the slug ripped into the Red Barsa’ chest, dropping the round bird to the ground.

Deren patted him on the shoulder with a smile. “Nice shot,” He said. “Almost fired that one a little too early.”

No, Torin thought to himself. My timing was perfect. “Thanks, Deren,” Torin replied with a forced smile, as he stood up and shouldered his rifle. “Come on. Bird’s not going to pluck itself.”

“The other six sure didn’t,” Deren replied with a chuckle. The words made Torin smile; of all the Melewati, Deren was one of the few that didn’t treat him any differently. “Come on. Farstalker’ll pluck us if we’re gone much longer.”

Torin smiled as he fell in line, his eyes scanning the graying sky over Owyhyee, catching sight of a mammoth Yuya as it soared high above. Clear air flowed over the plains as they went, brushing through tall grasses that swept along like waves in the ocean. The waves swept over rising foothills before extending up into the looming mountains of southern Owyhyee, the natural barrier whose passes had dictated trade and restricted marching tribal armies for decades. The same mountains that had sheltered the forces of the Kotahitanga-Unity Defense Force, during the reign of the False King, Cy Thuron.

Torin stopped to look at the mountains for a moment, before Deren called him over. His home was near those mountains; the Melewati had lived there since they’d landed on New Tython. “Hunters ought to be getting back about now. I wonder what Keira’s doing.”

“If she’s smart, cozying up to someone who doesn’t leave the planet every few months,” Deren chuckled, before patting him on the shoulder. “I’m sure she’s staring at the plains and pining, just like you. Let’s get back to camp.”

Torin smiled, giving him a shove before walking toward the camp; the faint smoke of cooking fires could be seen cresting the hill at this distance. He thought back to Keira Sallian, the Melewati woman he’d known since childhood; fast friends, they’d been separated when he and his father had moved into the mountains, only to reunite during the Melewati guerrilla campaign against the Thuronian Royal Forces. Those weeks had gone from awkward friendship to full-blown relationship; he thought of her, smiling, waiting for him as he went on patrol.

Just as she’d waited when he went to the Praxeum, to study with the Jedi. “About time,” Lara Farstalker barked over the ridge, looking at the pair with a cocked eyebrow. “Stopped to smell the roses?”

“Just retrieving edibles, Chieftan,” Torin said, hefting the string of dead birds.

“Well, get 'em over here. This porridge tastes like slag.” Farstalker cracked a grin as he approached, waving the two over.

Torin nodded, glancing about at the men gathered as he proceeded. To Farstalker’s credit, the red-skinned Zeltron woman was a fair and even leader, a great head to lead one of the two sects of the Melewati, the Forest Trekkers. The group of twenty bushfighters sat in small gatherings, shovelling back food and exchanging stories, a few of them rolling chance cubes carved with Melewati symbols. Dressed in gear painted a dark, low-lustre green, each carried old but well-maintained blaster rifles and shouldered sniper rifles, be they longblasters or the older slugthrower models. Some of them wore gear common to mercenaries, tough khakis fitted with armor plates and pads; others wore armor ranging as far back as the first phase of Clone troopers, purchased and refurbished before being repainted. The look wasn’t so different from Torin; he wore his father’s armor, that of an Imperial scout trooper repainted a dark green. Many dealers of arms and armor knew the Bushfighters, and supplied them; in that, they were not so different from the rest of the KUDF.

The rest of the men weren’t as cavalier as their leader; some stared at him, others watched him from the corners of their eyes, faint mumbles escaping their lips. Some of them had looks of veiled awe, while others had uncertainty in their gazes; Deren had assured him it wasn’t unexpected for them to be wary. He and his father, Korbin, had lived on the mountain for a lot of years. Melewati were naturally distrustful of outsiders.

Torin had a sneaking suspicion it had less to do with his mountain home, and more to do with the lightsaber hilt clipped to the back of his belt. “What’s it look like, sir?” Torin asked, as he and Farstalker strode into the command tent.

Made of stitched hides, each of them stained and weathered to blend into foliage, the tent was vast and held up on an ingenious wooden frame. A small holoprojector rested on a tree stump within, producing a flickering blue image of a nearby Harakoan village. It was a recording, captured by a scouting probe; tiny figures, women and children, moved through the clearing as they went about their daily lives. It was a sight that made Torin’s heart sink; this village had been attacked just after this was taken.

“We’re about three hours’ march from the Iwu Makaho village,” Farstalker said, waving her hand at the holo. “They’re simple people, farmers, gatherers, basket-weavers. They’re also members of the Tribal Alliance.” She said.

“They didn’t have rifles?” Torin asked, an eyebrow raising. “Or bows and arrows, at least?”

“They’re a peaceful tribe, attacked while their men were out to pasture.” She reached down to the projector, flipping a switch; the holo shimmered, before being replaced by the image of a Harakoan warrior dressed in a fearsome facemask and decorated with feathers and horn piercings. “These,” She said, waving at the image, “Are the Iwu Atunga. Hunters, warriors, and skilled woodsmen.” The holo flicked to a larger map of Owyhyee, showing a red and green group of triangles that represented each population. A yellow group of circles moved like a river through it; Torin recognized the movements of herds. “The Atunga have stubbornly refused to sign the Treaty, as is their right, but they’re experiencing a drought and their herds have moved on. That’s left them one choice - attacking the Makaho, and taking their herds.”

Ardell sighed. “The shedding of blood to feed their people, no different than any Treaty tribe might have done. This could all be solved with a trade pact.”

“It probably could, yes.” Farstalker replied, “And we both know the Tribal Alliance isn’t going to see it that way. The Makaho were attacked out of desperation, but without provocation.” She said. “And according to the Treaty…”

“…That makes the Atunga fair game.” Torin replied with a frown. “So that’s why we’re here.”

She nodded, turning the holo off and folding her arms. “What are your thoughts, Master Jedi?”

Torin blinked, before shaking his head. “With due respect, sir, you know the choice I made. My place is here, with my people.”

Farstalker gave him a look of amusement, shrugging. “I seem to remember hearing a lot from Master Kituri about the will of the Force having a say. If you buy into all that,” She replied. “We’re moving in to secure the village, set up a perimeter, and encourage the Atunga to get back to their own borders. Hopefully, we can get there before things get any worse, and give the Jedi time to sort all this out.” She sighed, approaching the tent flap. “The last thing we need is an Esk and Aurek.”

“Sir?” Torin replied, arching an eyebrow.

“Extermination and annexation,” Lara replied with a grim look. “Happens every so often, when a tribe gets brave or stupid. We’re not about to allow it to happen here.”

Ardell nodded, before emerging from the tent. With a few words, Lara set the men to packing up; they broke camp in minutes, hiding their tracks before resuming the trail.

Hours later, Torin’s eyes were sharp as he peered through the foliage of the woodlands, his A-280 held at the ready as he scanned for movement. The bushfighters barely made any noise as they proceeded, with only the smallest of forest creatures even noticing their passing; roaming Histyas moved through the clearings between the snipers as they marched, the massive beasts oblivious to the humanoids in their midst. As they came through the trees, the sight of ruined huts and muddied ground greeted them, alongside the smashed fences that had contained the herds before the assault.

Lara’s hand went up, a tight fist; form up. She flashed her hand in a pattern of motions, signals directing bushfighters left and right. Fan out, and search for hostiles.

Torin nodded, spreading out with his men, his own hand flashing signals. Eyes up, stay alert.

They moved throughout the muddied paths, slipping through the clearing around the bodies of fallen farmers. The Tythonian’s boots pressed into the mud as he sidestepped a dead man, his blue skin swarming with flies as his frozen face stared upward to the starry sky; nearby, a dead Histya lay atop a pair of fleeing villagers, with a fallen Atunga on the ground beside them. His head had been smashed in by a farmer’s cane, a sign of the little resistance that the villagers had put up. Torin couldn’t help but feel unease as he and his men searched, seeing discarded toys and abandoned tools scattered across the village where people had been forced to drop them. Huts were trampled, their walls torn down and their doors smashed in, but nothing had been burned or plundered. It was as if nothing had been taken.

Torin’s hand came up, two fingers pointed skyward. Something’s wrong. He scanned the clearing, seeing the flash of a bright red feather in the treeline. His blood went cold. “Ambush!” He bellowed, as a hundred voices in the trees let out a solid warcry.

Like a flood of Harakoans they came, ears and noses pierced by sharp bones, feathers strapped to their arms and stitched into their leather armor. Many wore masks, their bowstrings twanging as they fired arrows tipped with flint and stone into the Bushfighters, some glancing off of armor as others pierced arms, knees, and cracks in the armor. Blaster fire met them as A-280s came up, cutting down the first waves of Atungans as the rest of them charged forward, clubs of wood and bone smashing into soldiers as the charging warriors closed the gap. They pressed in on all sides, as Farstalker shouted orders, the Melewati falling back into a circle and pressing through the village.

“Retreat!” She cried out, her elbow smashing into a Harakoan’s ribs before her sidearm took down a pair of charging men. “Regroup! Retreat to the huts!”

Torin barked orders of his own, looking back to his men. “You heard her, get to the huts!” He turned to follow, as the largest Harakoan he’d ever seen tackled him, bellowing and swinging with a bone club.

Ardell cursed as the Harakoan forced him to his back, his lightsaber pressed into the mud, out of his reach. Grappling with the man, Torin swore as he struggled, a jagged flint knife aimed for his throat as he battled the Atungan, the larger man screaming war songs at him and trying to bite him with jagged, sharpened incisors. Getting hold of his ears, Torin delivered a headbutt, lacking the strength to put any force behind it; it was enough, as the hunter’s grip weakened and the Tythonian managed to get his hand around his pistol. A trio of shots into the warrior’s kidneys dropped him, as he rolled away, howling and clenching his gut.

“Regroup!” Torin shouted, looking to see Deren struggling against a warrior with a bone club. Snapping his arm up, a quick shot took the Harakoan in the side of the head, burning a glowing hole through his crested skull. “Get to the huts!” Running, he fired again and again, his pistol’s power cell rapidly depleting as he put down Harakoans with uncanny aim. The Force swelled within him; he couldn’t miss. “Go!” Ducking into the largest hut, he pulled the broken door shut, as Melewati within moved to brace it shut and block it with staves and other tools.

“This won’t hold, sir,” Torin shouted over the din, as Harakoan tools smashed into the mud-and-straw walls. Bushfighter rifles barked, firing shots through holes in the walls as they opened. Harakoan screams answered.

“Then we’ll hold them as long as we can, and give 'em hell when they break through,” Lara replied. “We have no choice.” Eerily, as she spoke, the din outside died down; howls and cries ended, as a few dominant Atungan voices barked out orders Torin couldn’t comprehend. Farstalker’s eyes narrowed, as she signalled her men to stay alert; her eyes widened with fear, as smoke began to curl up from their feet. “They’re burning us out!”

“There’s no way out!” Deren called from another hut, a voice joined by a chorus of others as the Bushfighters gave in to fear. “Chieftan, what do we do?”

Lara looked to Torin, her eyes pleading; he went cold, looking to the curling smoke, the flames that had begun to build. He knew what he had to do.

“Mataho, lo kuta na-,” The voice of the Harakoan warleader outside turned into a scream, as a fortified door blasted apart behind him, hurling him into the brushes.

A yellow flash flared through the smoke, as a dark form rushed out from the burning huts; Atungan warriors screamed, falling with flashes of light and cracks like thunder before the light went out again. Rallying, Atungan tried to catch the pursuer, their bows twanging after him, before the topaz blade burst to life beside them before carving into their ranks. Torin leapt over the falling Harakoans, his hand opening toward a fallen Bushfighter’s pistol as the Force dragged it into his open palm. Warriors ran at him, howling, bolas flying and arrows swishing through the air toward the Jedi Knight before them.

Torin sidestepped them all, spinning and ducking, the sound of the Force sweet in his ear as he moved. Flipping through the air, he let off a trio of shots as his arm swung around, crashing without fail into the chests of Harakoan warriors.

The Harakoans scattered, as the sound of shouting soldiers broke from the huts, Melewati warriors emerging with a wave of blaster fire and descending upon the broken tribal lines. Like a tide of armored fury they emerged, their weapons tearing holes in every advance as the Harakoans came forward, rallying behind the Jedi as he wove and struck. Torin felt his confidence soar as the men - his men, he realized, for even Farstalker charged behind him - rallied to his blade. Striking down a pair of advancing warriors, he fired a flurry of shots into the departing Harakoans before dropping the depleted weapon, his blade striking a pair of arrows from the air before they could reach the Melewati line. He leapt into the air, landing atop of a hut before pointing his blade at the fleeing tribals, watching as they regrouped and reformed beyond the treeline.

“Suppressing fire!” He cried, watching as the Melewati took covered positions and released a hail of blaster fire into the roiling mass of blue. Arrows answered in a hail, peppering the human line; with a shout, he waved his blade in the air. “Hold the line!”

“Katu! Katu!” A deep voice cried from behind the Harakoan line; a tall man, his headdress decorated with ornate beads and feathers, macuahuitl club held up high. Their leader. Torin’s eyes narrowed, as he leapt through the sky, flipping in the air.

Time seemed to slow, as arrows fired up toward him; he turned, letting them sail past, an arrowhead grazing his forearm as another scratched a deep line on his breastplate. Spears flew toward him, Harakoans reeling backward as they saw the Jedi pass, Torin’s hands coming together as he grasped the saber hilt. With a cry, he watched the Atungan warchief panic, saw him reel back as his eyes met the blade of burning plasma in Ardell’s hands, saw its trajectory as it sailed toward him. Ardell gritted his teeth, eyes blazing with determination as the Force guided his jump.

He slammed into the chieftan like a spear, sending them both reeling into the crowd.

Slowly, the Harakoan and Melewati assaults both stopped, Bushfighters and tribals looking to the fallen pair of men as they rolled down the hillside. The pair moved, slow and sluggish, the Harakoan chieftan’s body shuddering and giving hope to the tribals as he seemed to rise. Their hope turned to ash as the man rolled off, a smoking hole apparent in his heart.

Torin stood slowly, his blade igniting, eyes meeting every Atungan in kind. Fear and uncertainty glimmered behind their eyes; he knew it would not last, as they slowly started to approach, realizing they had numbers. “Well?” He asked them. “Is there no one else?”

The slow trembling of the ground was all the warning the tribals had, before stone-tipped arrows zipped into their lines and spears flew into the clearing, tearing down Atungans left and right. A horde of mounted Harakoans broke the line, members from a dozen tribes whooping and stabbing with polearms and clubs as their mounts trampled dozens of headhunters like a wave of charging flesh. Torin’s eyes widened as mounted warriors fired shots from decorated blasters and released arrows into the crowd, the Atungans panicking and fleeing into the woods, desperately giving ground and moving beyond reach of the horsemen that assailed them.

Emerging from the mass of warriors, Chieftan Whenua’s single arm came up, his spear waving signals to his men as he barked orders in Harakose. “Master Jedi,” His deep voice said down to Torin, as he bowed his head in respect. The months since Thuron’s fall had been good to Whenua; he’d been gaunt from imprisonment only months before, but now his musculature had begun to recover. His haunted, sunken eyes were no less intense than they had been on the plains outside of the city of Menat Ombo. “You and your men have fought well, and we thank you. We shall pursue them into the woodlands, and destroy this menace.”

“No,” Torin said, as the horsemen began to turn. Whenua stopped them, before staring the man down, an eyebrow raised. “You will not. The battle is over.”

“These animals attacked the Makaho, stole their herds and killed their people.” Whenua answered in a stern tone. His chest swelled with pride as he sat upright, his people looking to them. “The Tribal Army must respond.”

“And you have. Their forces are routed,” Ardell replied. “The KUDF will take it from here.”

“You would negotiate with these foes?” Whenua countered. “After this? They must face justice!”

“They will,” Torin replied. He heard the approach of boots, saw as his men gathered behind him, beside him. “This is an international matter now. The Jedi will decide their fate.”

The Harakoan Chieftan’s eyes narrowed, as he slowly looked to the left and right of Torin; glancing to the left and right, he realized the Bushfighters were standing with him, their eyes cold and their faces staring murder at the Harakoan chieftan. They were a unit of the KUDF; Torin watched as the Harakoans weighed the forces before them, outnumbered as they were. Perhaps thirteen remained, the rest wounded or worse; they were stained with mud and blood, smelling of smoke and run ragged. Yet Ardell could feel them in the Force, could feel their conviction and solidarity. They’d never been so strong.

For a moment, Whenua seemed murderous; then, as if weighing his options, he nodded. “Very well. We abide by the Treaty,” He said. With a whoop, he signaled his riders, who departed back to their villages.

Torin nodded firmly, before looking to the Bushfighters, to the lightsaber that still burned in his grasp; slowly, each of them nodded, some bowing lightly in respect. Within him, he felt a warmth, a sense of purpose that had been missing for months; as he looked to Farstalker, he met her gaze, before she nodded in deference to him. He smiled faintly, nodding back, feeling the Force’s will as it sang within his heart. Slowly, he looked down to the lightsaber in his hand, thrumming with a deep, immeasurable strength.

He nodded to himself, grim determination in his eyes. This was his path; he knew where he had to go. He was more than a soldier, more than a Melewati bushfighter; the Force had shown him his path. He was a defender of the people, a protector of peace and justice. It was time to stop running.

He was a Jedi Knight.


The Big Guy

Knight-Commander’s Logs: Lambow - 39 ABY, July 07, 2015

Rain lashed through the jungles of Kamuekiko, hitting the treetops of the thick rainforest in sheets that were split apart by the foliage below. Across thick, green leaves the droplets fell, snaking down brown trunks coated thick with the vibrant emerald moss that coated all but the barest of stones. Thick branches and dense leaves intertwined to shield the rainforest’s ground from the viciousness of the storm below, sending a fine mist through into a world of tropical life that never slept. Creeping, wrist-thick vines crawled and intertwined through everything, spreading from the trees onto a landscape thick with lush ferns and hardy jungle mosses.

The buzzing of insects and other tiny creatures could be heard, even over the din of distant thunderclaps, as the herd of Sthiss moved through the clearing below. Standing three feet high, with green, scaly skin and eyes wide as saucers, the reptiles quietly moved through the foliage with a subtle grace. Heat pits on their snouts flared as they scanned the ground around them, tongues peeking out from between their lips to test at scents on the air around them. They had evolved in the mists, in trees too thick for flying beasts and trees too crowded for megafauna.

They had no way of sensing the hunters above, a dark, furry cluster in the treetops.

Lambow’s vibrantly green eyes swept the scene below as his powerful limbs rested in the branches of the thick Iriatu trees, holding his weight in dead silence. Raindrops falling from above soaked his fur, slicking through thick locks of fur the color of chocolate, shot through in places with the silver hairs of age and stress. It traced its way down his face and chin, around the metallic grille of a throat implant that hadn’t seen use in months; as the water traveled, it snaked over utility belts stuffed with stun grenades and combat knives before caressing the contours and grooves of a pair of well-used lightsaber hilts at the Wookiee’s hips. Lambow’s eyes swept over the herd below, counting hundreds of the reptilian sprinters before coming up to gaze at the Wookiees surrounding him, at the Chosen of Bacca.

His Chosen, he knew many of them would have said. The thought rankled within him, as he gave a few quiet hoots and growls, watching the Wookiees maneuver through the branches with a silence most couldn’t manage on flat ground.

Lambow had come back to New Tython after the battles on Korriban, and had returned to the village of Gradrrbecca alongside the Chosen when they’d went. Fearsome, capable, and loyal to a fault, the deadly sect of Wookiee Berserkers had been part of the Kotahitanga-Unity Defense Force since its people had escaped slavery at the hands of the Galactic Empire, and had been instrumental to the Jedi since the Fall of New Tython to the False King, Cy Thuron. It had been in those wars that Lambow had arrived, taking up arms with his kindred species and passing on the tactics, techniques, and military discipline he’d picked up in his galactic travels. The resulting increase in Wookiee skill had made the Chosen one of the most feared units in the KUDF, loved by their allies and dreaded by their enemies. Their mere presence in these jungles was often enough to quell tribal disputes and colonial arguments.

It had also brought about an increase in respect for Lambow, one the Wookiee had been none too eager to accept.

Gradrrbecca had flourished since the liberation of the planet, and had grown vibrant and lively with the protection of its Chosen; yet the mysterious Wookiee, as most humans had come to call him, had grown weary of the constant respect and deference sent his way. The Force lent him its aid, it was true; of the three Wookiees within the ranks of Clan Odan-Urr, he was by far the strongest, a strength that had allowed him to dominate the battlefields of New Tython and beyond. But where that strength made him a terror for outsiders, and might have even alienated many Jedi, it brought out a deep respect from the Wookiees of the village. Several of them had been saved by his actions, and owed him life-debts; others respected and admired his skill, and idolized him as a hero. Even Warchief Liika, the village’s leader by election and right, often pressed for him to take the lead.

As had happened with this hunt; the faint sound of branches creaking drew Lambow from his inward thoughts, as he peered through the foliage to look upon the oncoming scout. Still a youth, Shorurra’s shorter stature and slender limbs set him apart from the group, even a Jedi Knight as he was; his saber pike bobbed on his back, as he made a few hoots and signals to Lambow. We’re ready.

Lambow nodded, taking in a deep breath and standing upright in the trees. Time seemed to slow, the birds becoming silent nearby as the insects ceased their buzzing, tension building in the mists below as the herd became aware.

With a loud, reverberating roar, Lambow set flame to the jungle’s silence; the roar’s fury echoed throughout the canopies, sending birds sprawling as the herd took off in sheer terror.

Like a hurricane, the jungle’s treetops and grounds suddenly grew wild and furious, dark shapes swinging through the treetops and howling at the herd below as scaly feet trampled fern and swept over logs and dead-fall. Sprinting and galloping, the lizards moved like a green tide, sweeping through and between the forest with a grace unknown to near all other beasts on the planet; whenever a Sthiss drew too far from the herd, a Wookiee would drop down, Ryyk blades swinging and howls sending it back into line. For that was the plan.

Like a wedge, the Sthiss herd was being driven on, compelled by terror to the dying ground.

Stampeding through the woods, the herd came upon a massive bulwark, a crescent of soil and stone amassed behind mighty spikes of wood; they crashed into its basin, panicking and roiling as their outermost members swept off to the sides, rushing around like twin rivers of verdant scale. A bark from the trees gave signal, and with a roar ten Wookiees of the Chosen rose up atop the Bulwark, their leader Salbecca roaring and hefting his bowcaster. Green, magnetized bolts ripped into the herd below, dropping dozens of the beasts as as their swiftest members escaped; the black-furred Wookiee on the ground howled congratulations and commands, spurring his men on, his blue eyes piercing from behind the white stripes of his face.

The chaos seemed to last an eternity, noise and fear erupting in a roiling mass of flesh and blood below; seconds later, eerie silence took the clearing, as Wookiees converged from the treetops and the bulwark to admire the kill below.

“A good hunt,” Salbecca warbled to Lambow, the rough grunts and growls of Shyriiwook as clear as day to the two of them. “Your plan worked well. As always.”

“It was just as much your plan as it was mine,” Lambow huffed back, playful irritation in his tone. “Stop shirking the credit.”

The two chuckled, as they looked to the animals below, several Wookiees reaching down to put wounded animals out of their misery before throwing carcasses over their shoulders. The hunt had been prosperous; though hundreds of animals had escaped, to breed and replenish, their dead numbered in the dozens and would feed the Wookiees through the winter with ease. Lambow looked over to Sal, and to the eagerness of the youth Shorurra, the burning red brand of his saber pike flashing as he drove it through the heads of wheezing Sthiss. It gave him pause, as the Wookiee remembered a time not so long ago when the three Jedi of the Wookiee tribe had been more than just hunters.

A time when they’d fought for freedom and justice, as Knights of Allusis. “Hey,” Shorurra growled, “This one’s still kicking.” He approached the beast as it shuffled, pike held high, ready for the strike.

A flash of danger swept through Lambow’s senses, as the animal kicked free at the last second, the lizard it had been pinned beneath coming loose and tripping the younger Wookiee up. “Shorurra, wait!” Lambow barked, as the younger Knight growled and rolled to his feet, pike blazing as he barreled after the wounded reptile.

“Let him go,” Salbecca huffed, a rumbling chuckle escaping his throat. “He’ll be back, probably with some tale to tell.”

“That’s what worries me,” Lambow replied with a sigh. Shorurra was what Lambow had once been, idealistic, energetic, ready for adventure. Before I found wisdom. He looked up, as the mists began to retreat. “Looks like the storm’s passed. Come on, let’s get this done.”

Shorurra howled and barked at the panicked animal as he ran, rolling off of tree trunks and neatly running across stumps and stones in his path; the Force’s song sang through his body as he went, keeping pace with the wounded sprinter. The beast’s galloping led it further from the treeline as it slowed, blood sprinkling trees and stumps as its groans became more and more prevalent. The Wookiee broke free of the trees as the animal hobbled, slowing down, giving up the fight. With a toothy grin, the Wookiee approached with a flourish of his saber-spear, ready to drive it home.

A shadow from above was all the warning he had, before the world turned into weight and pain.

Descending from above, the Fullasi cat’s wings came in tight as its paws wrapped around the Sthiss below, tens of thousands of pounds worth of pressure pulverizing the reptile’s bones as it was hit. Its force was enough to knock the young Wookiee aside like a rag doll, as he rolled and smashed into the treeline with a groan, standing haggardly and bringing his pike up before him. Pain shot through his limbs as he stood, bones popping and muscles straining as he fought his way up to a combat position. Instantly, he knew he was in danger; with wounds like these, he could hardly move, much less use any feats of acrobatics.

The cat’s iron jaw snapped on the lizard’s neck, before it wheeled around, wings flaring to the sides and lips curling back to expose massive fangs. It yowled, a piercing shriek that tore through the forests on all sides, its tail held upward in aggression as its maddened yellow eyes seemed to pierce the Wookiee’s soul.

It was a cry that Lambow heard, one followed by the faint yowlings of a young Wookiee Knight. All his weariness vanished, as his heartbeat kicked up to a fever pitch.

Without hesitation, the Watchman jumped up to the treetops above, catching branches and sprinting across vine and shoot as if they were cobbles in a street. He ignored the hoots and barks behind him, orders to form up; the Chosen would never make it in time. Calloused palms gripped hanging branches with a vice-like intensity as he hurtled forward, claws extending to dig deep into tree bark, hands and feet working in concert to propel him toward the foe. Adrenaline coursed through him, building to a white-hot fury as he swept through the foliage, the wind whistling in his ears.

In the clearing below, Shorurra darted and swept, the two-foot blade of his pike sweeping and prodding at the animal; its own movements were just as graceful, as it darted back to avoid the weapon’s wide reach before sneaking around and swiping with massive claws. The Wookiee danced backwards, expert footwork hobbled by pain as he kept just out of reach of the animal’s grasp, knowing the treeline behind him was fast approaching. With a cry like something out of a nightmare, the cat hurtled forward, a gliding pounce that closed the gap with the Wookiee in seconds. Shorurra cried out in pain as claws raked at his belly, blood trickling down his skin as fur and flesh were torn aside. His pike fell to the side, as he grappled with the animal, his own prodigious strength all that kept its grasping teeth and claws away.

Above, a dark shape erupted from the canopy; Lambow’s twin sabers flipped up from his belt, the Force guiding them to his hands. They erupted with emerald light, before driving down into the back of the Fullasi with a screech like tearing metal.

Shorurra rolled backward as the animal cried out, thrashing, pinned beneath the larger Wookiee. Taking up his pike, he staggered toward it with a huff, before stabbing his blade down into its skull.

For a moment, the two panted, staring at each other as their lightsabers slipped back into their hilts; then, leaning on his long weapon as a walking stick, the younger Wookiee’s chest began to rise with a huffing growl, a laugh his elder shared wholeheartedly. It grew louder as the Chosen broke the treeline, weapons ready, to see the scene of the ruined cat beneath the Jedi Knights.

“Thank you, Lambow,” Shorurra chuffed, before moving to the others to have his wounds tended.

The mirth in his spirit slowly ebbed as the Sentinel made the trek back to the village, the massive weight of the Fullasi shared between him and two others. Nods of deference and warbles of congratulations came his way, words he replied to with nods of his own, a deep reluctance welling up within him. He’d had to save the youth; it was in his blood, the urge to defend his people, to protect them. But he was not their leader; he would not be. It wasn’t a task he was meant for.

As the treeline gave way to his village, he felt reassurance, dropping his kill with the other dead beasts as Wookiee women approached with sharp blades to skin and gut the prey.

Climbing a rope ladder with a nimble flourish, Lambow looked around as his feet hit wooden planks, letting out a satisfied sigh. What had once been tents and shanties had grown into a proper village, domed wooden dwellings built up around the trunks of massive trees. Rope ladders, bridges, and swings connected homes built on various levels, several built high above the others to give the impression of a tiered, towering city. While nowhere near the impossible height of a Wroshyr tree on Kashyyyk, the tall, vined Iriatu grove had given the Wookiees plenty of purchase to establish themselves; here, they were more than warriors, more than escaped slaves and their kin.

Lambow smiled as small children ran by, howling and warbling as they played at tag. They, like many others, had been born on New Tython. They’d never known slavery. Here, we’re a family.

Massive ropes and pulleys carried the processed Sthiss meat up, as meat was laid upon drying racks or salted for storage and placed in thick-walled storehouses. Scouts sat in baskets below and above the treeline, as torches dotted the clearing, giving light to the dimness beneath the canopy above; high above, a circle of graying sky showed itself, branches cut back as the Wookiees worked industriously to install a laser cannon within the trunk of the mightiest tree. The war against Thuron had changed much; it had given the Wookiees here a cause, uniting them as a people and inspiring them to fortify and protect the people that they loved. It had brought out the best in them.

Slowly, wearily, the Wookiee moved toward his own hut; alone, isolated, it was built midway up an outlying tree. Lambow had told his kin he liked the quiet; in truth, he’d chosen it to get away, placing it in a spot most Wookiees would need to work harder to reach. Running and leaping, he cleared the massive gap between his tree and the others, catching a vine halfway through and swinging neatly to a stop on the planks before the furs of his doorway.

His senses grew wary, as light peeked out beneath. I can’t sense any danger, He thought to himself, as he slowly parted the veil. The scent of Oku flower tea wafted out, greeting his nostrils as his green eyes took in the scene before him.

The dwelling was sparse, a simple cot and a pile of clothes next to a tiny fire pit in the center; an ancient metal teapot, beaten and burned black by decades of use, now rested above the fire in the middle. “Ah,” Liam’s kindly voice echoed up from where the old man sat, cross-legged. “You are just in time.”

With a grunt, the Wookiee clicked on his throat implant, the vocator’s speaker growling and buzzing faintly as it stuttered to life. “Liam,” He warbled softly, the words translating into tinny Basic. “I was not expecting you.”

“Few ever do,” Liam replied, “And yet, the Force decided to bring me here. Have a seat, my old friend.”

Lambow nodded warily, sitting on the rug below and accepting a wooden cup of tea. Floral and fragrant, the purple flowers within the pot produced a brew that was soothing to the throat and relaxing to the muscles; he had to admit, it was a nice touch on the Consular’s behalf. “Please,” He said wearily, putting a hand up before Liam could speak, “No adventures. No missions or mischief; I’m too old for that sort of thing.”

He looked the Jedi before him over, weary green eyes meeting the flash of brown orbs that peered out below bushy white eyebrows, eyes that seemed about sixty years too young. Liam smiled, relaxing and sitting back. “On the contrary,” He said jovially, “I just need a good mechanic.”

“Right,” Lambow replied with a huffed chuckle. “Just a mechanic.”


The Drifter

Knight Commander’s Logs: Jason Hunter - 39 ABY, July 09, 2015

“Come on, you slagging…” The clump of wires in the Corellian’s hand sparked as he worked, sending a small current up hands coated in oil and lubricant. “Damn it.”

“Everything okay?” The voice of Yeltsi Yann asked, the shopkeeper’s delicate Rodian face peering over his shoulder.

“Yeah, it’s just a little tricky to…,” A larger spark, and the actuator came loose. He swore, shaking off his right hand as its metal circuitry reacted with the new input. “Got it!”

Before him, the interior of a green X-34 landspeeder loomed, its protective panels cast aside and the filthy mechanical workings of the machine laid bare. Jason Hunter peered into it as he set aside the broken actuator, grabbing the replacement part and inspecting it. It was clean, if a bit dinged up; like the aging speeder itself, most of the parts had been purchased used. Reaching into the machine, careful not to touch the exposed wires again, he connected its wires before tightening the bolts that held it into place. Nodding, he stood up and nodded, wiping greasy hands on a pair of filthy overalls the Rodian had loaned him.

“That ought to do it,” He thought to himself, feeling a swell of happiness inside of him. He loved odd jobs like this, fixing things and helping out.

“Jason, my boy, you’re a life saver,” Yeltsi said with the Rodian equivalent of a smile, clapping a green hand on the Corellian’s shoulder. “It’s so hard to find a good mechanic around here, and I just can’t afford to spring for an astro-droid.” He looked the man before him over. “Where’d you learn to do this sort of thing?”

Jason flashed a crooked, Corellian grin and shrugged. “Oh, you know. Grow up on my world, you don’t get to three without cranking a hydrospanner.” Behind the mask, he felt his elation weaken, dimmed by unpleasant memories.

“Well, thank you. You really should let me pay you, one of these times.” He patted him on the shoulder again. “I’ve got to get back to the shop - you ever need anything, you’ve got a permanent discount!” With that, the Rodian walked away, the purples and blues of his outfit illuminated as he departed the small garage.

Jason’s smile faded as the Rodian walked away. Wiping sweaty purple hair out of his eyes with his left forearm, he moved over to the worktable, taking up an old gray rag and using it to wipe his hands. His thoughts were elsewhere, far away in distant lands and star systems as the fibers of the cloth wiped away black grease that had crept into the lines and creases of calloused hands. It was true, he’d learned a lot as a street kid on Corellia; but of those skills, mechanical aptitude had been a gift of a far different calling. A hallmark of his time as a pilot in the TIE Corps of the Emperor’s Hammer, a faction of the old Empire.

His thoughts darkened further as he thought of the Hammer, and of the branch that had broken away from it, taking Jason and his skills with it - the Dark Jedi Brotherhood, and in particular, Clan Tarentum.

Hunter worked methodically as he remembered his life, a rough childhood in foster care that had produced a delinquent layabout; the foster families he’d lived with, and the father that had reclaimed him a few years later, only to be ripped from his grasp in a Rebel attack. With a sigh, he looked up into the mirror on the worktable, studying the creased face that greeted him there; he was older now than his father had been when he’d been killed. The memories kept coming, of the training of a Krath disciple, the horrors of the Clan of Death and the vile things an angry young man had done. Decades of horror and pain, nursing a pointless grudge and wounds that had long since scarred over. Even after he left Tarentum, trying to live among the Jedi of Odan-Urr, he’d been buried in pain and fury that he’d forgotten how to put down.

It had all come to a head at Korriban. On that world… well, he’d finally seen enough.

Jason strode toward the speeder, bolting its protective plating back into place before setting Yeltsi’s tools back into their drawer and closing it. Taking off the overalls he wore and hanging them up, he brushed off the brown leather jacket and black trousers he wore, careful not to get any residual grease on his plain white shirt as he did. He grabbed the brown leather pack he carried, only to have the lid of it fall backward, its clasp somehow coming undone. With a grimace, he looked on the assortment of junk and treasures within, and on the silvery object at the center.

The hilt of a lightsaber, long untouched. With a sigh, he closed the pack, doing it up and shouldering the strap. “Not today,” He said to himself.

Emerging from the garage, his smile returned as he took a deep breath of afternoon air, eyes gazing around the town of Tanduran. Originally a trading post for farmers and colonists, the town had gone from hamlet to hardpoint in the recent war against the false King Thuron. Thirty-foot walls now surrounded buildings that were one and two stories high, some existing before the occupation and some erected from prefabs and offworld contracts by the Mad King’s men. The former were simple affairs, mostly shades of tan and brown, while the latter tended more toward grays and blacks. It mattered little; all had been reclaimed by the townsfolk once the Jedi had arrived, their tactical victory ensuring little of the town was damaged in the taking.

Children ran to and fro, as people moved and bustled about their daily lives, a population that was mostly human sporting the odd alien and Harakoan-turned-settler. Security officers patrolled the streets, domed white helmets and clean uniforms a symbol of order and peace as they moved, numerous and largely effective in this fortified haven. The town’s districts now sported several workshops, garages, and even a factory; it was becoming a production hub. The thought made Hunter sigh with relief, his dark thoughts wiped away.

That smile faded as he turned his eyes to Yann’s General Store, to see a frantic Yeltsi being shoved through the door by a trio of rough-looking men. Relaxed demeanor gave way to military precision as Jason approached the store, flipping the clasp on his DL-44’s holster just in case.

“Please, no!” The Rodian yelled, before being hurled into a rack of tools and supplies. Landing with a grimace, he yelped in pain as Sheg’s boot came down on his ribs, cracking one of them. “I’ll pay you, I swear!”

“It’s a little late for that,” Alin Drelg’s high-pitched voice crooned, his slender face and build looking too small for such a wicked calling. “Sheg, Joram, get him up.”

The pair grabbed the Rodian and hurled him upward with ease, Sheg’s face split by a wide scar as he grinned and delivered a brutal fist into the shopkeeper’s gut. Joram was no prettier, an ugly man with an ugly burn on his left cheek, his own fist finding the Rodian’s kidney. Both men were huge, a head taller than Yeltsi and far thicker than any human had any right to be. With a cry, Yeltsi was dragged up onto the counter, his head smacking against the cashier as Drelg came up close. The man’s hot breath filled the Rodian’s nostrils, scented with cigarras and whiskey.

“Now, listen,” The slender man crooned, a six-inch blade slipping from his sleeve and into his right palm. He brought it up before the Rodian’s eye, his face calm, almost reassuring despite the evil in his eyes. “You let your debts slip, and Tragen can’t afford to look soft, can he? So we’re going to give you a little… message from him.” He smiled, as the Rodian squirmed, tears streaming down his green face. “A message for all your little friends out here.”

“I’ve got one for you,” A stern voice from the doorway called. Drelg looked up, to see Jason silhouetted at the door. “Get out.”

“Well, well,” Alin said, letting go of his quarry and stalking toward Hunter with a swaggering, cocky gait. “Look what we have here, boys. A hero,” He waved his knife at Jason with a grin, displaying crooked teeth. “You ought to turn around, friend. Three to one - those aren’t good odds.”

“You’re right,” Jason replied, the corner of his mouth quirking into a little grin. “You definitely need a few more friends.”

Alin’s eyes flashed, as he barked an order, backing away. “Get him, boys!”

Jason’s hands came up with trained precision, his pack dropping to the ground as the two men rushed him; Sheg came on him hard and fast, only to have Jason’s arm grip his waist as the Corellian twisted, using the big man’s momentum to send him sprawling. Joram was smarter, his fists coming in as Jason shrugged off the blows, his arms coming up as his hands gripped the man’s jacket. A sharp headbutt sent the brute backward with a grunt of pain, before he shook himself off, bringing his arms up as the Jedi brought a one-two punch to his rib cage. Hunter’s grin widened, before cutting short as Sheg came up behind, the Force warning him too late. The Guardian spun around, his arms barely coming up in time to block the chair in Sheg’s grip as it broke across his torso, sending him to the ground.

“Jason!” Yeltsi cried from behind the bar, as the two brutes closed in, kicking and stomping with wicked smiles. Sheg’s turned to panic, as Jason’s arms wrapped around his leg and dragged him to the ground, the drifter rolling to deliver a hard elbow that put the man out.

Springing up, Hunter closed in on Joram, who came at him hard and fast. A hard haymaker came for Jason’s face, one he blocked with a raised left arm; his own right shot out, smashing into the brute’s face with a metallic clang, blood spurting from a busted nose as he staggered backward. With a roar, he swung wildly at the Jedi, landing a few grazing hits; Jason took these with a few muffled grunts, before driving a fist into the man’s gut and, when he doubled over, bringing a hard knee up into his chin. Joram dropped like a sack of jogan fruit.

Jason barely had time to stand up straight, a flash in his peripherals his only warning; Alim darted toward him, lightning-fast, blade flashing. Spinning to defend, Hunter roared in pain as the knife bit into his side, catching the man’s wrist in a fierce grip and twisting it. The blade clattered to the ground, before an angered Jason headbutted the gangster and delivered a boot to his chest. Drelg reeled backward, smashing through a table stacked with goods and landing in a cursing heap.

Sputtering in rage, he struggled to his feet; Jason saw Yeltsi make a break for it, sprinting for the door, as the cursing Alin pulled a blaster pistol from his coat. “Yeltsi, no!” Jason barked, his hand darting to his hip, drawing loose, squeezing the trigger.

A flash lit the room, as a crimson bolt yelped forward and smashed into and through the gangster’s chest with a sound like thunder. Vaporized blood sprayed forth in a mist, as a cloud of obliterated blood and gore stained the wall, the dead man crashing into it and slowly sliding down. Coughing, struggling to breathe through flash-burned lungs over the pain of ruined organs, his eyes misted over and went into a panic for a few seconds; Jason’s heart clenched, as the man’s life gave way before him, years of wickedness fading away. In that moment, Alin wasn’t a criminal, or a monster; he was a man, scared and dying against a wall.

As his breath went still, Jason stared at the pistol in his hand, the DL-44’s barrel still smoking from the shot. Throwing it across the room, he roared in anger, falling to a crouch and gripping his hair as he clenched his eyes shut, blinking back tears. He was done with killing; he’d come to Tanduran to find peace, honest living and a chance to help out. His eyes opened, casting around the trashed store, to the two huge men slowly waking up in pain, their own gazes going cold and afraid as they noticed the Corellian’s position, and their dead boss against the wall. The sound of distant klaxons sent them both to purpose, as the pair drew up hoods and sprinted out of the door for the alleyways.

“This is Tythonian Security,” A voice on a loudspeaker barked. Jason knew who it was; he’d waited for them to come. “Come out with your hands up. No sudden moves, or we’ll shoot.”

Slowly, sadly, Jason picked up his pack and slung it over his shoulder. Raising his hands, he emerged from the doorway at a slow pace, as men in white uniforms closed in with rifles drawn. Hunter didn’t resist; they roughly manhandled his wrists, pulling them behind his back and clasping them with binders as the officers pushed him against the black-and-white hull of their own speeder, patting him down for weapons. Suppose I was headed here anyway, The Corellian thought to himself.

“We’ve got a body, Captain,” A voice over the radio of the man in charge. “Looks like quite the fight, both of them drew. Murder weapon’s secure.”

“Secure the scene,” The Captain, a tall man with the name ‘Nels’ on his chest said in return. “Looks like we’ve got a murder. Know what we do to murderers, boy?”

“Make 'em listen to your ugly mug all day?” Hunter bit back, a reply that got him shoved into the speeder with force.

“Stop!” A voice from the crowd growing outside of the shop emerged; Yeltsi, bruised and bleeding, appeared at the perimeter line. “This is a travesty!”

“Calm down, sir,” Captain Nels replied, his voice stern and commanding. “This is a crime scene. You need to stay back.”

“Crime scene? It’s my damned store!” He shouted back. His green finger pointed to Jason as he spoke. “That man saved my life!”

Jason’s eyes widened, as an Officer came up to Nels with Jason’s pack in hand. Slag it, He thought to himself. “Sir, we’ve got a One-One-Three-Eight.”

Nels snatched the pack, staring into it and sighing. “Figures,” He growled. “Let him up,” He snapped to his men, who slowly let Jason up off the hood and undid his binders. Nels threw his pack to him, the Corellian struggling to catch it as he rubbed his wrists.

“Courtesy? I’ll be slagged,” Jason said, defiance in his voice. “Guess you found my little toy, huh?”

The Captain drew in close. “Law’s clear on your kind. You’ve got an argument for self-defense,” He said coldly. “You’re free to go, Jedi. But remember - this is my town. Stay out of trouble.” With that, he turned to his men, barking orders as Jason rolled his eyes and walked toward the crowd.

As the police line parted, Jason’s eyes flickered to the people staring at him, whispering to one another frantically. He braced himself for fear; instead, he saw awe on the faces of the people, admiration in their eyes. Children pointed to him, smiling like he was some sort of hero. Yeltsi emerged from the crowd, grabbing him by the shoulders, falling all over himself as he spoke.

“Thank you so much, Jason,” He said frantically, “A thousand times, thank you! Whatever you need, a place to stay, supplies, you name it-,” He was cut off as Jason rose a hand.

“I told you, Yeltsi, you don’t have to do that.” He waved him off, before grimacing and touching at his bleeding side. A shallow cut, just the edge of the knife had found his skin. He’d need a new shirt.

“To Raxus Prime with that,” The Rodian replied. “You come with me - we’re having a drink, you and I. On my tab.” With that, he dragged the Corellian off toward the tavern, away from the group of townsfolk that was slowly trickling after him.

Jason glanced back to them, his pain and doubt slowly giving way to a warm, unfamiliar feeling. He smiled. It was nice to be the hero, for once.